Jai Singh has had one of the best seats from which to watch the theater that is Silicon Valley. He founded CNET News.com in 1996, and has presided over the technology news site since.
He saw CNET become part of that theater this summer, when Google pledged not to talk to the company for a year after an article on privacy divulged personal information about Google's CEO (that was found by using Google). But the two were on speaking terms again after a couple of months.
PRWeek: Google's decision to not talk to CNET became a hot topic in the tech media and PR circles. How would you describe the state of relationships now between tech companies and the media?
Jai Singh: In general, it's fine. If a company doesn't want to give you a story, it won't. But if we waited for PR pros to give us stories, we'd all be out of business.
PRWeek: Some have said that because there is so much media out there, Google felt there were other ways to reach its audience without CNET. How has this simultaneous fragmentation and growth of media outlets impacted the mainstream media?
Singh: We're going through a redesign right now. In that effort, we're looking at the fragmentation of the media. The users are dictating more and more. There really isn't a monopoly. The New York Times is not the only paper in town. The bloggers have their place, the mainstream media has its place, and we have our place. All of us are coexisting, and the readers are benefiting.
We serve up to 100 million unique users a month across the network [all of CNET's properties, including News.com]; we are a top-ten media property. We are bridging the gap between the mainstream and the blogosphere. It's a very symbiotic relationship, because a lot of blogs comment on what we report on. So it's not competition from a news perspective.
PRWeek: Is the media doing a good job covering tech? In discussing the media's culpability in the rise and fall of the bubble, you once said, "You can't have media darlings without the media."
Singh: Lesson learned. We got caught up in the internet bubble. Now there's more deep thought. We're more circumspect. So now it's interesting to cover the competitive battles. We're writing about that from both a business and personal perspective. If you look at any of these tech companies, all of them are talking about the personal connection [of their technology], as well as the business. It's a fun time for me as a journalist to be writing about these companies.
PRWeek: What has changed about the kind of technology stories being told today?
Singh: Consumer use is driving the adoption of technology faster than corporate use. Look at [instant messaging]. It was a consumer tool. Now it's a corporate tool. In a lot of ways, it's the consumer who is on the cutting edge of technology adoption.
PRWeek: What distinguishes CNET's coverage, and how has that evolved?
Singh: The biggest change we've made is that we're more focused on the personal aspect [of technology], as well as the professional aspect. Our initiative is to cover the business, politics, and culture of technology, as it impacts everything we do. We want to make sure we put the reader's voice into everything we do.