We need more knowledgeable, reflective tech journalism in New Zealand

This is an old post but I’m leaving it here for the hell of it. Failed links have been updated (where possible) or removed.

Tech journalist Bill Bennett wrote recently about how few tech journalists there are working in New Zealand and how even those few don’t write exclusively about New Zealand or for local publications. Like the rest of us, they go where the money is.

You can count the number of full-time technology journalists writing for New Zealand audiences on your fingers. Experienced local journalists are as likely to turn up on overseas publications as on local titles.

It means we no longer tell the best stories about local technology companies. We don’t report the ways New Zealanders deal with technology. A lot gets missed.

Bill scrolls through the main tech publications and tech sections of mainstream media and notes how many people are working at each publication and the pressures they are under – in a nutshell: not many people, they mostly wear two or three hats, the commercial realities are hard, writers are under pressure to produce a lot of content every day and “there’s not much time for reflection”.

This… explains why the IDG sites [Computerworld, for example] are full of overseas filler material. It keeps the pipeline full at no extra cost to the publisher. The stories seem to be picked at random. No thought is given to whether a story serves readers.

Amen to that. I’ve recently unsubscribed to some of these publications for that very reason (along with the fact that there’s a lot of repetition of stories across IDG titles).

Bill’s piece is well worth a read and it chimes with feedback I’ve been hearing for the past few years from developers and tech entrepreneurs in New Zealand. The following sentiments are typical:

You can send a press release in and they just run the whole thing, word for word. It’s bizarre.

Someone needs to do some decent reporting around cloud apps. I get a couple of sentences in to stories and think ‘that’s a press release’ and give up. That’s not what I want to read.

Some of the things they run are just wrong. I don’t mean a bit off, I mean just completely wrong. I know, because I was there.

I don’t mean to bag on tech journalists here; they get some good work done under difficult conditions and many of us remain regular readers of their stories.

But I think Bill makes a very good point when he says that the absence of a thriving tech media is not just bad for readers, it’s bad for the tech industry:

Leaders of New Zealand tech companies need to be aware of what is going on in their industry, not what someone’s promotional output says. They need intelligence, not propaganda…

Because overseas news feeds dominate the agenda in New Zealand, people buying here are more likely to hear about an overseas supplier than a local one. Investors will put their money overseas, skilled workers will look for jobs overseas. This is already causing problems.

The lack of balanced, impartial and thoughtful New Zealand technology journalism creates the impression there’s not much going on here.

But there’s a lot going on here:

I haven’t researched the market and don’t know the size of the opportunity but I hope it’s sufficient to prompt someone to take a tilt at generating fresh, well-rounded tech journalism and making it pay.

Bill hints at having an idea about exactly that in his post. So if you have any thoughts, fire them his way.