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Posted by Tom Cheesewright on

No Credit Crunch For Tech

There’s a credit crunch going on apparently. There’s even talk of a global recession. But somehow that doesn’t seem to be affecting the tech industry. At least, not its spending plans.

This isn’t some empirical study, merely observed phenomena: more tech companies are actively seeking marketing support than I have seen for some time. The weeks preceding and following Christmas have been a whirlwind of new business meetings. Existing clients seem to have a bit more freedom with their budgets, and prospective clients seem to be very positive about their capability to fund some fairly innovative projects. The mood is good.

This could of course be a very localised happening, constrained to the North West where tech seems to be particularly booming at the moment. But there are companies in London and the South East, and even in the stricken US, all looking for support and suggesting they have the money to fund it.

How long this will last I don’t know. I don’t think there will be a dot-com style boom. But I’m hopeful that the tech industry may at least not suffer too badly, should a recession come. Fingers crossed…

Posted by Tom Cheesewright on

Net Records Update

Things are finally coming together for the Net Records project. Thanks to the self-titled ‘Supreme Talent’ (his latest and greatest position), the site is looking sharper, more of the functions are up and running, and we now have some sexy Flash elements. Bands and users are beginning to sign up too. Thanks to Somerset punk pop band ‘Everything we left behind’, James E, and ‘Verbal Tiger’ for being among the first to dip their toes in the water.

This weekend we’ll be doing some more cleaning up and getting some friendly bands to upload more profiles and more music. So check the site out when you have a moment next week. And if you have some feedback, drop me a mail at tom@netrecords.co.uk, or join our Facebook group and leave some comments on the wall.

Posted by Tom Cheesewright on

PR Offensive

I have worked in PR for over eight years. I now have other roles as well — including this blog — but I continue to work in PR. For the first time this month I have experienced the other side of the fence. And suddenly I understand why so many journalists are so disparaging about PR practitioners.

To give me the access I need to do research for this blog, and for my roles on local TV and radio, I have registered as a fully fledged member of the press for the forthcoming Mobile World Congress. This is a trade show on a truly massive scale with more than 40,000 people descending on Barcelona for a week. Big trade shows mean lots of companies, and hence lots of PRs.

Over the last week I have received over 100 invites to meet with companies at the event. Of those, only one showed any evidence of having read this blog, or researched the other media that I work for. Now I admit that there are mitigating circumstances. There are hundreds of journalists attending the event, of whom I am probably amongst the least important. Time is short and there are many clients to pitch. But let me proffer some advice — advice I will be giving to my own PR colleagues as well. It is not rocket science and it is nothing I didn’t know already. Only now I understand just how important it is.

1. Choose your targets carefully. There may be hundreds of press attending but really, are they all relevant to your client?
2. Read the publications you are targeting and write your pitches appropriately.
3. Tell the journalists why they might be interested. Just because something is new, unique or leading, does not make it a story.

There. Three tips. Yes it will seem like it takes longer to get through the list, but you will have a shorter list to go to. And a much, much higher hit rate. I don’t mean to chide and sound all snooty, but when PRs do a bad job and journos complain, it does none of us in the industry any good.

For any other PR who might take the time to read this, here’s what I’m looking for at the event:

– Consumer-friendly stories that can be demonstrated visually either in a still photo or on a video clip (don’t expect a film crew — this will be a distinctly gonzo approach)
– Technology that will have a marked impact on society; how we interact, communicate, and consume media
– Great parties.

Invite me to any of those and I will try to oblige. I may not be the most important journalist out there, but with the chance of coverage online, on BBC local radio, and on local TV, surely I have to be worth a punt? And a bit of effort in the pitch.

Posted by Tom Cheesewright on

War Games

Hollywood is notoriously bad at handling technology — specifically computing — in films. The problem, they claim, is that the reality just isn’t very sexy. So instead they have Hugh Jackman manually cracking encryption algorithms while being distracted in the most pleasurable way by Halle Berry. That just winds up everyone remotely familiar with the reality, alienating rather than appealing to a large part of the film’s target market. (In case you didn’t know, the hacking is just as unrealistic as a hacker dating Halle Berry).

Last night I watched one of the first films about hacking, War Games, for the first time in years. Now it is some years since I handled a five and a quarter inch disk (there’s a joke in there somewhere), or a dial-up modem which required you to actually connect the telephone handset. But to me the scenes in this ageing film seemed far closer to reality than most of what has come since. OK they avoided showing people how to actually phreak a phone system, and I’d love a real electronics expert to give me their opinion on Matthew Broderick’s hacking of the door pin code with a dictaphone, but by and large, it wasn’t too daft.

The important thing the film showed was how little technology often has to do with hacking, and how much it is often a process of social engineering. Geeky as I am, I would rather film makers focused on this aspect of hacking and glossed over the technical aspects rather than feeling they have to add whizz-bang effects to what I understand to be largely a time-consuming, tedious, and mostly automated process.

Posted by Tom Cheesewright on

Nuclear Gets Glowing Endorsement

The government has backed plans to develop 10 new nuclear power stations. According to Greenpeace these will only cut carbon emissions by 4% by 2025 — too little, too late. Though Greenpeace may not be the most independent source of statistics, I remain hugely sceptical about the wisdom of investing in nuclear fission.

Historically it has been a hugely inefficient source of power, requiring huge financial support from the government to maintain its viability. Though the government claims the costs will not be met by the tax payer, the fact is that we all have to pay for electricity. If nuclear comes to represent 20% of our generating capacity as the government forecasts, that could mean a serious increase in electricity prices. Though the industry claims the new generation of reactors are more efficient, the nuclear industry is already pushing for a government set minimum price for carbon emissions — only when this rises above a certain level does nuclear power become profitable. The higher the price of carbon, the higher the price of power.

They say ‘better the devil you know’, but history shows only failure for nuclear power. The government has invested only miserable sums in alternative energy research — certainly relative to the massive subsidies received by the nuclear industry. Perhaps they might want to consider throwing some big money at alternatives before jumping back in to bed with a very dirty devil.

Posted by Tom Cheesewright on

New Year’s Revolutions

Pardon the trite title. Like most at this time of year I feel like I need a holiday to get over the holiday. A week in some austere, distant health spa to re-energise my brain and rid me of the toxins (and tummy) brought on by excessive consumption of turkey (and Wild Turkey). Despite the hangover of a particularly Bacchanalian fortnight, and the appalling weather, I am optimistic for the new year. Surprisingly my optimism is fuelled by events across the Atlantic.

Watching the progress of the presidential primaries has been hugely heartening. There are candidates on each side (Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinic) campaigning on pure political beliefs, rather than following the herd and trying to respond to every whim of the focus groups. If only we had more politicians over here willing to be so brave. Though neither of these candidates may win, they are at least driving debate in to some key areas and reminding voters that some politicians actually stand for something. Turnout in the New Hampshire primaries has been high as a result of people actually believing it is worth voting.

The fact that the Republicans have never looked like such also-rans also puts a smile on my face. The future will certainly look brighter without the GOP in the White House.

Posted by Tom Cheesewright on

Las Veg@s

In Las Vegas the world’s largest technology fair is progressing. Though there may be some more idiotic inventions out there (Taser gun with integrated MP3 player anyone?), the gadget industry appears to be in rude health. Good news for geeks everywhere.

Tom Cheesewright