Portal bolstering its BS filter

May 13, 2009 by Dave Haynes

Digital Signage Universe issued a note last night to what I assume its distribution list, stating pretty bluntly that the BS coming out of the industry was starting to be a real problem.

While we expect a certain amount of embellishment in a press release, we also expect that it will be accurate. It seems that some companies have been pushing the envelope on their facts in an effort to gain attention and market share. At a time when we are all looking to raise the profile of the industry, none of us can afford to have our credibility damaged. Credibility matters—yours and ours.

We recently carried a release on our site (which has now been removed) that marked a new low for distortions of fact. We understand that this release had a significant amount of “blow back” for the parties involved, and so Digital Signage Universe will now be vetting releases more carefully from this point forward.

Digital Signage Universe is slowing down the process to make sure that the information we receive is indeed accurate, and that credit is given where credit is due. We ask that other industry news sites to do the same. Posting company news is rarely mission-critical, and accuracy matters more than speed.

Now the naysayers out there will suggest that if a company wants to position itself as a news portal, it should be following basic journalism practices anyway – ie fact-checking and interviews. But there is precious little real money on the trade publishing side of this, and certainly not enough to employ full-time, seasoned journalists to run down stories.

Updated: I initially suggested in this post that DS Universe is a subset of the content shop Motionstream, but Lionel Tepper of Motionstream has clarified, indicating DS Universe is indeed now a full-time business with a full-time editor and media sales. See the comment section.

I mostly, but not entirely, stay the hell away from press releases because I have neither the time or interest to fact-check, and assume the content is spin-doctored. This blog also isn’t meant to be a news portal, and I long ago gave up any interest in being first with news.

It would be great if the industry was self-policing, but there are too many cowboys in the space – from young entrepreneurs who you’d almost expect to embellish to large, established firms who should know better. In this case, it was a well-known company turning a one-off install into a press release about a rollout with a blue chip retail banner. I remember seeing the release in question, and thinking, “Hmmmmm …”

We have all read stories about big rollout plans that pretty clearly will never happen, money raises that are mostly vapour or ruthlessly tied to milestones, and pronouncements of amazing new technical breakthroughs that really don’t amount to much.

As one of few people writing about this industry who actually has a mainstream journalism background, I can say absolutely that there is little value or purpose in trying to blow smoke about a company and its incredible, completely torqued achievements. The Internet makes it way too easy to research things, and the person or company who can call a company bluff is just an email, Google Alert or RSS feed away.

The press releases that people are actually interested in contain solid facts about deals that have closed, rollouts that are happening, people who’ve signed on, or technology advances that actually are advances. I think part of the problem is companies use PR agencies to put out press releases, and my experience with these people suggests very, very few have the foggiest idea what this digital signage thing is all about. They get paid to put out something, anything, to generate a little noise, and somebody in the client organization approves the release without thinking too hard about what’s in there.

One of the reasons I started writing this thing 3.5 years ago was to apply a BS filter to the industry at a time when there was little writing going on other than a smattering of self-serving company blogs (Gerba being the very notable exception). It’s a little sad to see the nonsense continues, and the good work of efforts like DS Universe have to be scaled back or slowed by BS. 

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