JOURNALIST Q&A: Stephen Manes

Like that of his hi-tech brethren at The Wall Street Journal and BusinessWeek, Stephen Manes' favorable attention is worth its weight in gold. And a positive word from Manes is worth even more these days, with fewer hi-tech editorial pages, and even fewer scribes with Manes' institutional knowledge and insight.

Like that of his hi-tech brethren at The Wall Street Journal and BusinessWeek, Stephen Manes' favorable attention is worth its weight in gold. And a positive word from Manes is worth even more these days, with fewer hi-tech editorial pages, and even fewer scribes with Manes' institutional knowledge and insight.

PRWeek: What has changed the most in the way the media covers technology? Stephen Manes: Some people have become more selective, and some haven't. More publications are covering tech in the mainstream media. A lot more people are covering stuff, but a lot of them are just rewriting press releases, instead of testing the product and seeing if it lives up to the promises. Those of us who have been doing this for a while, we really do put the products through their paces. One major issue for me is does the product work better than the non-tech alternative? Will a Palm actually work better than an address book? Take something like a plasma-screen TV. Plasma screens look great with DVD or HDTV programming, which is what they show you in the store. But regular television looks terrible on an plasma screen, which of course is never demonstrated in the store. So if you watch a lot of television, you might be happier with a normal TV. But you can only find this stuff out if you test it, and have experience in knowing what to look for. PRWeek: Many PR pros think that the media coverage has become very negative, to compensate for the overwhelming positive coverage of a few years ago. Manes: There's not quite as much rah-rah for companies as there once was, but there's every bit as much enthusiasm for technology. The positive thing is that more people are writing about tech. But the negative is that ad sales are cutting into the pages available to write about tech. So there's more interest, but the editorial holes have been cut. Interest in companies is down, but interest in products is up. I'm interested in products and services for things consumers can access. I'm looking for something that is indicative of what is to come, such as a 13-megapixel digital camera, or something that is a distillation of a bunch of trends. I want to see something that is highly differentiated from similar products. PRWeek: What kind of job are tech PR people doing today? Manes: During the dot-com bubble, companies were hiring new PR people out of bars. It seemed as if they were dragging them in fresh out of something. There was a habit of throwing bodies at the problem. It was annoying and exceptionally incompetent. Most of those who remain are several notches above what we had back then. But I still get way too many pitches from people who have no idea what I do. They should know what I write about before they pick up the phone. ----- Name: Stephen Manes Publications: Forbes, PC World Title: Columnist Preferred contact method: steve@manes.com Website: www.forbes.com; www.pcworld.com

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