John Battelle has an interesting post on his blog that begins to isolate the phenomenon of internet interest bubbles. John is primarily talking about tech journalism and he explains that the bread and butter of tech journalists is to pursue the “echo chamber”. Rather than one massive tech bubble like the dot-com boom that collapsed in 2000, John is arguing that the accelerated media cycle (I won’t call it a ‘news cycle’) and the democratisation of access to publishing channels due combined with ultra-low barriers of participation.
we have migrated to a more free-wheeling discourse driven by any number of interested parties. As it relates to the Internet industry, that means VCs and entrepreneurs promoting or angling for investments or promotion (or souring a deal they didn’t get a part of), bankers trying to influence any number of outcomes, and sources within all manners of companies pushing their own agenda on Twitter, Quora, or in private conversations with bloggers and other media outlets.
The accelerated media cycle means that tech media outlets can ride the wave of interest produced as part of and in response to a given tech ‘PR event’. It is an example of where the structure of media has flipped from a cycle determined by the rhythms of publishing, distribution or broadcast constraints, to be a rhythm of the media cycle organised around the capacity of the audience to be interested in a given topic or event.
Not unlike the structure of a moral panic as a kind of media event, the ‘PR events’ that John is discussing in this context have a particular trajectory across media channels and involve a recognisable repertoire of story genres (the rumour or rumour, the announcement, the product launch, the walkthrough, the dismantling, the market response, etc.) and an equally recognisable list of players in the drama (the source, the tech company messiah, the fanboi, the self-righteous tech reporter).
I think it would be possible to map these â€˜PR eventsâ€™ by tracking all commentary within a discrete event. The complication, as anyone interested in media events will be aware, is the baroque character of media events. The â€˜iPad2â€™ event is nestled within the larger â€˜Appleâ€™ event and so on.
The more pressing question for many media professionals is regarding the role of journalism within these PR events. Is it ‘journalism’ to cover the release of a new product? Just because you feed the ‘interest’ of an audience, does that make what you write ‘news’ and your practice ‘journalism’? For example, what newsworthy value can be found in the PR event of the iPad2 launch? It seems almost as if many journalists turn the PR event on its side and report on the success or failure of the PR event itself (What does the Apple fanboi think? What is the aggregate response by the tech media community?), but is this ‘news’?