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Mobile World Congress: Did the mainstream media notice?

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3UK are on a mission. In other news, I almost beat the crap out of the mainstream media today.

Uploaded - 21 Jul 2008-5

I appreciate it.

I appreciate all the work that the marketing and public relations teams do for product launches and things like this.

Today’s event with 3 was billed as a ‘Christmas in July’ preview of the company’s ‘fall line’ — their Christmas line up. It’s not just TV channels or fashion/retail chains that need to prepare well in advance for the Christmas rush. Your common-or-garden operator needs to be prepared for that time, especially from a pay as you go perspective.

The opportunity to take a peer into what 3 has got stuffed up its sleeves was one that I simply couldn’t ignore. Other operators should take note. Invite bloggers.

This, I think, is the first time that 3 have invites bloggers along to this kind of thing. Sam, who oversees 3Mobilebuzz, the operator’s blogger-outreach programme, managed to secure a few invites.

The event, you see, was for the proper people. The trade press. The real journalists.

And what a bunch of total arses they are. The trade press, I mean.

I couldn’t work in mobile public relations. Geez, no. I don’t think I could bear having to brief know-nothing tossers all day.

I flatter myself that I’m a decent chappy to invite along to a mobile event. So is Rafe from All About Symbian. Or Ricky from Symbian Guru. Or Dan Carter of Or Stefan Constaintinescu from Intomobile. We’re shit hot, frankly.

So are you, dear reader. You’re reading SMS Text News because you exhibit a degree of interest in the mobile industry that’s greater than a passing grunt.

Actually let’s be clear. I’m not flattering myself. That’s the wrong phrase to use. I’m not flattering you, either. Nor am I flattering the chaps I’ve mentioned above. We’re all good. We’re all generally enthusiastic, right? We’ve all got a thirst for knowledge about mobile related stuff. I’m a big fan of mobile. Yes I might have a go at Nokia now and again, but that’s only because I want them to be better. Fundamentally I’m a huge fan.

So I’m a brilliant chappy to have at a mobile operator launch event. But I tell you, I nearly beat the shit out of some of these mainstream media types dribbling around the event this morning.

Before I explain, let me just get the goodies out of the way for those waiting:

The Blackberry Bold launches in November. You can get an E71 (White) on the 21st of July. And you can have a Samsung Tocco or a Nokia N96 in September. No word on the Sony Experia as yet.

Now that’s out the way, let me tell you about this event.

3 did an excellent job. The theme, of course, was Christmas in July. So they’d recreated a ‘park’ complete with deckchairs, benches, plants, trees and astroturf grass in the showcase area of National Magazines’ office in Carnaby Street. The Christmas bit, as far as I was concerned, were the devices. On each bench and table there were a selection of different devices, grouped into sections. My eyes widened as I saw one hamper with what looked like a Windows Mobile Motorola next to an E71.

I said hi to Sam and to the 3 PR team. I met their Director of Handsets — a new chap who’s got his brain turned all the way up to 11. That’s the kind of guy you need running your handset strategy. This was, effectively, his baby, this event.

They’re committed PR folk. They love their products. They were all sporting wicked 3UK handsets as personal devices too. That’s a key test when you look at marketing folk. (If they don’t eat their own dog food, there’s usually an issue.)

Sarah guided me around the various stalls and sections laid out. Each had a different theme. For example, over at the picnic table were some laptops with dongles. On a bench in the corner were some high-end handsets (my eyes widened at the N96, the Sony Xperia and the Samsung Tocco). In a picnic basket was this Windows Mobile looking handset and the E71. We headed there first.

Sarah began her pitch, taking me through the background to 3’s strategy of offering all customers (PAYG or contract) mobile email, irrespective of their device. I’ll need to look closer at the system. It looks really, really smart and it’ll work with almost any device. “For example, with the Blackberry,” she continued.

The what?

I looked again. Shit! It’s the Blackberry Bold. On 3? On THREE?

We didn’t guess that. Not at all.

And so the briefing continued. I managed to get their permission to do some QIK videos and take some photographs of all the publicly available devices. Some of them weren’t for public consumption alas but I certainly respected their preferences.

Sarah took me around each section and talked in-depth about the range of back-end services and strategies that 3 is working with to support the various devices and services coming out soon.

A brilliant job.

“Listen, I need to get this out to the readers,” I said, taking out the Apple Air and plugging in the 3UK broadband stick.

“Ok, I’ll leave you to it,” Sarah said and quietly let me get on with my live blogging.

And that’s when the trouble began for me.

I was exposed to the shite. In the form of know-nothing, couldn’t-give-a-toss arses. Yes, mainstream media journalists.

I don’t mind the technology journalists who know their thing. Or who’re keen to learn.

But get this.

A chap from one publication arrived. He smiled and headed straight for the food table. Maybe he was hungry, I thought.

And he stood, next to the food table as one of the 3 PRs approached and began trying to brief him.

He asks some lame, stupid question and the PR lady does her best to smile appreciatively. First she decides to check if, as she suspects, he’s a Class A idiot with no clue about mobile.

“So, do you have a contract phone?” she says, just checking.
“Pay as you go,” he replies.
“Oh,” says the PR lady.

I would go into more detail about the inane conversation but I would incriminate the chap. I won’t name names. Or report the name of the publication. I’m astonished that they sent this chap to cover a mobile event. It’s absolutely appalling. He knew nothing. He was using a throwaway piece of shit Nokia.

He wouldn’t know multimedia messaging if the slapped him around with a wet kipper.

He took a look at the arrayed devices. I think I spotted a cornflake stuck on his knitted jumper.

He saw nothing whatsoever that interested him and did his best fake smile when the PR girl asked him if he’d ever used a mobile broadband dongle. It was clear he didn’t give a flying FOK about mobile broadband. Or know what it involved.

My gosh.

This is it. This is mainstream media. This guy is going to have to write a piece at some point about 3 and their new services. The PR girl tried again, asking him if he’d ever used an N95 – a clever move, I reckoned — as she could segway on to the new N96 in the corner. No. Blank looked ensued from this journalist.

He didn’t even try to take a sodding interest.

We move on.

Two girls arrive. My god. Airhead extreme. Caked in foundation and obviously from a women’s magazine of some sort.

Again, I won’t identify them. They were in and out of the launch faster than I’d written the little ‘live blog’ piece.

One of the other PR girls wandered over and welcomed them. Fake smiles from the magazine girls.

‘I’ve had enough of this,’ I thought.

I engaged them in conversation.

“Which ones are you going to feature?” I asked, motioning to the new Skypephones.

Blank look.

“Er,” said one of them, “Er, we don’t know… it…er…”

She looked to her friend for help.

“It, er, depends.”

“On what?” I asked.

I dropped it there. 3’s PR did their best to take these two women around the stalls and try and interest them.

My gosh.

This. Is. It.

Absolutely shocking.

I guarantee you that this girly magazine in question has readers who are ultra keen to know about 3’s products. It’s not all about makeup and blowjobs. For today’s young ladies, technology in the form of a hot mobile phone is particularly important.

Yet I just know that this magazine will do a half page bullshit piece of rubbish featuring 50 words on the Skypephone or the new N96. And that’ll be it.

And what a wholly depressing notion this is.

I sat and I watched the (apparent) cream of mainstream media descend on 3’s event and piss right off with their little goody bag.

It really is nothing short of massively annoying. Especially when the PR team have put so much work into the event.

I almost took some of these arses to task.

They were invited for a reason. Their audience deserves to know what 3, Vodafone, o2 — everyone — is up to. Their readers are trusting them to deliver.

And they’re not.

Which is why more and more people turn to specialist sites such as this one and the sites I mentioned above.

And ultimately, that’s only good news.


  1. Magazines are even closer to being finished than newspapers!
    Just imagine when those MSM mags will hit the streets? Something tells me they'll be somewhat less than relevant by then.

    Doomed, I tell ya!

  2. Get a life, nerd. Not everybody sleeps with his the NXXX or the NYYY, people have a lot of other things to do in their life. I know it sounds strange…

  3. Another great Ewan rant! I have to say though, as important as mobile technology is to the readerships of a wide range of mainstream publications, not every publication has a technology correspondent.

    Journalists get invited to PR events every day. Not all of them will appeal to every journalist. Although it may be their job to cover what they see at them, after a while these events will blur into one big free buffet. They probably go along for the food and to pick up the press release so they can write a filler piece if they need to.

    As exciting as you or I may find this particular one, for many of the people there (who probably got invited to to the launches for a new vacuum cleaner and a new brand of slippers last week) it was 'just another launch for a product they don't care about'.

    Sad but true.

  4. I concur @MartinSFP

    I've run product launches and PR events in the past and to get anyone to turn up can be an achievement sometimes when there are so many other launches going on at the same time. And even if they turn up, the journalists who do come are not necessarily the least bit bothered about what you're up to. I'm not tarring all journalists with the same brush mind you – journalists are just very busy people, with hellish deadlines and a ton of product launches press releases, fact finding and interviews to deal with, often with daily or weekly deadlines to meet.

    On the other hand, bloggers are generally enthusiasts so would give their eye teeth to come to a product launch in their sweet spot. It's not necessarily their day job (although in this case it is your day job Ewan – does this make your a blogalist or something?) but it's their passion and their specialist subject so they will make the time and the effort to turn up and find out more just because they can.

    It's all relative.

  5. Yet another sign of how – from a bleeding edge point of view anyway – print media is dying on it's ar$e.

    Seriously, when was the last time you read about a new device or service in a technology magazine that you hadn't already heard about online?

  6. Nice post Ewan – some interesting observations. I've seen the same thing at a variety of events. Mainly it just makes me feel sorry for the PR people who have put a lot of effoer into such an event. On the other there is a distinction between bloggers and journalists (as technokitten points out) and it is important. The main stream media is equally stratified. Lifestyle vs technology press for example. And at the end of the day even a shiny picture in a magazine with a decent circulation can be important (though there something wrong with the way ROI metrics are generally measured). PR tends (and I'm generalising massively here) to value even a small item in print media over online media (and even more so over bloggers. You can debate circulation versus visitors count of course, but degree of targeting tends to be forgotten and of course the online and blogger stuff probably has far more long term legs.

    That said by sympathy for 3 is somewhat tempered by the fact I haven't been able to make contact with them. I've tried going the 'proper' PR route and was largely ignored, and wrote to 3 Mobile Buzz and didn't get a response (perhaps not surprising, I may fall outside their remit). Maybe I should have tried harder, but…

    To be fair I think its very hard for marketing people to connect with those they need to (how do you know who is most valuable unless you're part of the community itself), especially with blurring lines (or rather a continuum) between bloggers/social media/online media/mainstream media etc etc. Of course you also have to bear in mind they have limited resources and therefore can only ever target a certain number of people so you can't assume you should be on the list (which incidentally PR should set up a mailing list and send out a summary the next day to everyone who was unable to make it or they didn't have room for).

  7. Yeah – I refer you back to my podcast comments from hte Jawbone launch, which itself was good, but where the man from [insert large US-based media firm that you'd recognise] had already written up the iPhone 3G review prior to its announcement.

    I was horrified – I'd chew my arm off to be paid full-time to write about this stuff and he dribbles out that toss… what a lack of respect for his readers.

    I guess the thing is blogs are more interactive so if we did that the readers would tear us a new one.

  8. It's only a couple of phones… remember, the mainstream press has its readers to think about too, and will put in effort commesurate with the return.

  9. But where is the story for the mainstream media? Frankly, I'm disappointed with 3 – where's the innovation gone? This was just a handset launch, and the newest product thing (for them) was that they are now going to be selling blackberry – hardly news when everyone else has always been selling them.

    Where's the next X-series, the next Orb, the next slingbox, the next skypephone (er..)

  10. Thanks Ewan, you'll be the first to know if Nokia is doing something in the UK. Well it could be you or Rafe, depending on whoever has push email turned on 😉

  11. Go the Daily Mail technology columnist.

    ….Of course, your readership aren't interested in mobile broadband dongles for their free laptops while on holiday in their velour-stuffed caravans in some Midlands white trash wasteland hell-hole.

    ….I'm amazed you were even able to find this site……


    There is the next skypephone, plug it into your laptop and it'll load the drivers to use it as a mobile broadband dongle… there's your innovation!, every other operator will sell you a handset contract with data and specifically forbid you from tethering it.

    Three are pushing all the right buttons for me right now!

  13. Great insight Ewan, I share the same feeling.

    I remember being at the Nokia Growing Together conference and having tons of international journalists doing nothing related to the phones, and looked at me crazy just for taking tons of comparison images. The same happened at the N96 and N78 launch, although there were less of these mainstream reporters.

    They probably think “This guy never saw a phone in his life…”

    Pretty ironic it would be!

  14. Hmmm…Orb. Slingbox.

    er, taxi for mass-market FAIL, please! It was a buzz but really – TV on your mobile? Next.

    …actually, I met a Slingbox user the other day. No, really! I was carving my initials into his side with a stick and he woke up…wait, no, that's a Monty Python routine….

  15. Entertaining post, but chill mate.

    Imagine if you had to cover 15-20 launches a month. Not all on things you care about, you may be for example massively into home cinema but not care about mobile much. etc. Most of the results from a launch like this is to get the Press Release printed – mostly verbatim, and a photo in the publication.

    Job done.

    Dirty but realistic.

  16. I really don't agree. If you're the technology correspondent for a girly
    mag or a computer mag or whatever… it's your job to take an interest, even
    if it bores-you-to-shit. You take an interest. You walk about. You look.
    You poke.

    You don't arrive, stuff your face and piss off with the press release 60
    seconds later.

  17. Agreed, presumably you were given some sort of takeway press kit. 3 would be looking for a magazine like heat to stick the E71 (in girl friendly white) or black berry bold – next to some lippy and wedges.

    Of course the danger being it ends up being PR for the handsets rather than the network – but im sure the press kit photos are '3''d to within an inch of their DPI.

  18. Aye. If the journalist just wants the release and a picture, fine. You get
    that by email. But when you turn up to an event, it's downright rude to pop
    in, stuff your face, ignore everything, spot the 'goodie bag', grab one and
    head off!

  19. mind you – there was nothing genuinly *new*
    bold has been at various trade shows
    E71 has been in nokia store on regent street for a few weeks
    N96 is there too
    tocca is in every mobile store in the country

    X1 is rare as is the things you presumably wernt allowed to blog

    however if its a bloody press show – why have things you cant show on display.
    unless it was purely on embargo. which most press ignore.

  20. Exactly, and it's because not everybody wants to eat, sleep and live mobile phones that they need advice from the people who do, literally, eat, sleep and live with mobile phones on their minds. When mainstream media prints news about mobile phones they need to make sure they've done their research so that the normobs of the world can be informed without putting in too much effort.

    Thanks for proving our point 🙂

  21. You don't always do a job because you care about it, you do a job to get paid for it. Not caring about the subject matter doesn't mean you can do a half-arsed job.

    All you're doing is confirming the laziness of mainstream media.

  22. i wonder if these handsets you have mentioned above will appear at some stage on the 3ireland network because frankly the choice of handsets in the Republic is quite bad compare to the English market….

  23. Sorry pet peeve: It's the British market, not the English one.

    On a more helpful note, all the 3 firms world-wide select their own handsets so what 3UK does is no indication of what will happen in Ireland… other than via consumer pressure.

  24. a jobs a job. you took the job knowing full well what it entails. i dont care if you have 50 deadlines to meet you do what your supposed to do. thats what you get paid for. give me the damn job if you cant be arsed or have no interest!
    sods law.

    hey any news on the samsung soul on three? i hear a release is imminent?

  25. a jobs a job. you took the job knowing full well what it entails. i dont care if you have 50 deadlines to meet you do what your supposed to do. thats what you get paid for. give me the damn job if you cant be arsed or have no interest!
    sods law.

    hey any news on the samsung soul on three? i hear a release is imminent?

  26. a jobs a job. you took the job knowing full well what it entails. i dont care if you have 50 deadlines to meet you do what your supposed to do. thats what you get paid for. give me the damn job if you cant be arsed or have no interest!
    sods law.

    hey any news on the samsung soul on three? i hear a release is imminent?


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