If you are a gadget geek, CES is heaven on earth. More electronics than you can shake a stick at and some of the electronics are even IN that stick.
But separating the few tiny grains of wheat from a million square feet of chaff takes a lot of work. It’s a shame the Tech Media isn’t up to the task.
We rely on the media to tell us what is important. To inform us. If they fail at that job, they are useless. Worse, they become part of the problem. Far too often, the media, especially in the technology sphere, simply act as a marketing/PR arm of various companies. CES shows that in stark relief.
A perfect example is yesterday’s “announcement” of the Kolibree smart toothbrush:
The Verge: “Kolibree’s smart toothbrush claims to track and improve your dental hygiene”
CNET: “Kolibree’s connected toothbrush aims for better dental health”
Mashable: “World’s First Connected Toothbrush Will Keep Cavities Away”
On the surface, a “connected toothbrush” sounds a bit silly. The first thing I would do as a journalist is talk to a dentist about it – none of the above linked articles do.
Reading the above articles (and others), you’ll notice this:
Kolibree will launch a Kickstarter campaign this summer, with prices ranging between $99 and $200 for various models.
So it’s not available in stores now. It won’t be available to buy in the next couple of months. It might never come to market if the Kickstarter campaign fails.
SO WHY WRITE ABOUT IT?
The media has to be constantly on guard to ensure that a company isn’t simply using them to promote a product. CES is notorious for that. Hundreds if not thousands of products have been shown at CES simply to generate buzz and then money from investors. The media should never voluntarily be part of a company’s marketing.
I have a rule about CES coverage. When I was going to the show, I would ask a vendor, “What is the price and when will it be available to consumers?” If they had no number for the first, I didn’t take them seriously. I’d listen to their pitch and thank them for their time and then be on my way.
If the second number was more than three months away, same response. If a vendor can’t tell you those two things with any accuracy, their product simply isn’t “real” yet and the tech media shouldn’t be writing about it.
There are plenty of viable, interesting, cool products at a show like CES. But if all the lazy tech media does is parrot press releases, it is hard for the general public to find out about them.