AOL: You’ve Got One Less Customer

Tuesday, Nov. 30 —

Here’s why, in my Tuesday Mercury News column.

Media Manipulation

Tuesday, Nov. 30 —

When I go to a technology industry trade show or conference, there’s usually a registration booth that says “Press/Analysts” or something of that nature. This reflects the fact that journalists and analysts are in essentially the same business: learning about the industry and reporting it to their respective constituencies. In the case of journalists, the audiences are readers, listeners or viewers. Analysts write reports mainly for institutional clients, who sometimes pay a lot of money for their services.

In other words, analysts are journalists for the rich.

Cisco Systems Inc., the networking company, is holding what it calls an “Analyst Conference” on Wednesday, December 1, at the company’s headquarters in San Jose. Cisco has invited a bunch of journalists, too.

I was among the latter. But I received an e-mail saying that most of the sessions at the daylong meeting would be off the record — that is, I could not report what company executives said. I can live with that, I said to a Cisco public-relations person, but what about the analysts? Is it off the record for them, too? Here was the response:

You make a valid point. It’s a tough call for us. This analyst conference is really put on for the analysts by our analyst relations folks. We in public relations ask permission to invite a limited number of reporters to the conference as an educational opportunity for them and agree to make the condition that it is off the record to the press in the sessions you point out.

We hope there is some benefit to journalists despite the off the record conditions in several of the sessions.

Yours is a good question and I respect it. Even if you don’t agree with the answer here, I hope you can understand how we’re trying to accomodate different folks.

Translation: It’s off the record for journalists. It’s on the record for analysts. I declined to participate in this charade. Instead, I’ll head up to Menlo Park for an on-the-record briefing with Sun Microsystems.

Cisco has become one of the tech industry’s most cynical and manipulative companies when it comes to dealing with the media. This befits its size, I suppose, but it doesn’t fit the image the company wants to project.

Zen and the Art of Interface Design

Tuesday, Nov. 30 —

Tom Christiansen has written an excellent piece on keyboards for Slashdot.

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