A new report by ITDatabase that examines tech coverage over the last six months from eight top business news publications raises some questions, in particular: Does the business press factor companies' revenue and profits into their tech editorial agenda?
The report shows that Apple and Google dominate, while Twitter and Facebook are far more discussed in the business press than Intel, Dell, IBM, or even HP (the largest tech company in the world).
The eight publications surveyed are: The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Forbes, Fortune, BusinessWeek, The Economist, Financial Times, and USA Today. Over a period of six months, ITDatabase measured coverage by the number of times a tech company was mentioned in print and online in these publications, including blogs such as All Things Digital, which is affiliated with the Journal. (Disclosure: I am an adviser to ITDatabase.)
Enterprise IT is woefully underrepresented, despite being the cash-cow in the industry. "In the overall editorial agenda," the report says, "enterprise IT is treated like consumer tech's snaggletoothed twin. It barely even makes the family photo."
Oracle ($22 billion in revenue, $5 billion in profits) only cracks the top 10 companies by coverage for one of the eight publications examined: Fortune. Cisco ($40 billion in revenue, $8 billion in profits) didn't make it on anyone's top 10 list. IBM ($100 billion in revenue, $12 billion in profits) wasn't even in The New York Times' top 20, and was No. 19 for The Wall Street Journal.
These are tech vendors with billions in profits that are largely ignored by business press, and there are tech categories with enormous worldwide revenue (enterprise categories in particular like storage, virtualization, network infrastructure) that are barely even acknowledged.
The collective coverage of the tech industry also appears to overlook the relative importance of major manufacturers in Japan, South Korea, and China.
As the report points out, there are of course some outstanding individual tech authors in the business press. And in fact, Twitter and Facebook play heavily into the way they communicate with their readers. But collectively, has the business press lost touch with the tech industry?
And is it reasonable to expect that tech categories (no matter how dry they might be) receive attention proportionate to the revenue they are driving? Or is biz press tech coverage about entertainment?
Readers are always interested in the latest and greatest and tend to flock to articles about the brands that they like best (Apple and Google), or dislike most. Similarly, people just love to read about things that go wrong, or when big companies screw up.
What to write about is a daily struggle not just for the business press, but for tech writers and bloggers too. And some large companies choose to communicate to the media mostly via press releases, which tend to make for not too interesting news.