Why the "Techo Chamber"?

Q: How many candidates for political office do you see promising to “____________ to the Washington insiders and ___________”?

A: Lots. People like reformers. They make voters feel good. Things will be different. Etc.

Q: How many people complain about the same “talking heads” day after day, week after week, pontificating on the same shows, when we know their positions and who they’ve worked for and who they are biased for and against?

A: Lots. Do we turn them off? No.

Q: How is “New Media” any different than “Old Media?”

A: It’s NOT.

I just finished listening to one of the Internet/Phone/Chat call-in shows that I frequently enjoy. It’s always the same few guys, who I respect and have a bunch of interesting viewpoints on…stuff. They occasionally let people call in and join, but not really. The Chat Room is generally more active (and interesting) than the conversation on the call.

And in the most “meta” way possible, as it always does, the topic turned to the “tech blogosphere” echo chamber and the so-called “A-List” of writers and polemicists who write about start-ups, established companies that used to be start-ups, and…each other.

Oh, and did I mention that some of these guys are the ones who are always talking about how “new media” (a term that I have zero clue how to define) will change “old media” and that everyone has a voice, it’s merit-based, etc, and so on and so forth?

Yeah. That’s why you have the same people on the show, with the same points of view, every single week, and you actually joke about it when you let someone else in to talk. You also have a very small audience. Compare to say, Aaron Brazell’s show which airs the night before (full disclosure: I have appeared on the show).

Aaron, who is not by trade a writer, pundit, polemicist, commentator or journalist, had a segment where anyone that wanted to could call in and talk. He called it “Somebody Had To Say It.”

There were far more guest listeners on Aaron’s show than the other show. I still like and respect the guys on the other show…but…

In the spirit of mangling the English language, I’m dubbing them, and the rest of the “A-List” who engage in the constant cycle of writing about each other and complaining about the missteps of others the “Techo Chamber,” the Silicon Valley counterpart to the “Beltway Echo Chamber.”

And in a wonderful twist of irony as someone who started out his media career, such as it is, writing on a website, I am going to offer the Techo Chamber a piece of advice as someone who operates in “old media” as well as “new media” (despite the fact that I firmly believe there is no distinction).

You want to have a Breaking Story? You want the exclusive? the scoop?

Read your email. I mean, really look and see what’s important. Scan the press releases. CALL THE PRESS CONTACT. Talk to the PR flack on the other end. They want to hear from you. Even if you don’t write something, or you’re going to write something negative, make sure to call them again. Follow up.

Of course, under what I like to call “Feinberg’s Law,” the longer a piece on, in, or about the Techo Chamber goes on, the probability of Michael Arrington being mentioned approaches, and will eventually reach 1.

(note: while this is similar to Godwin’s law, I am not comparing Michael Arrington to any subject of Godwin’s law, and if you link to this and write that I did, well, that’s libel, and if you have any ad revenue, I want it, because I have student loans. Am I clear?)

Anyway, back to Arrington. You know why he gets scoops? TechCrunch started by him hosting cookouts at his home. People started showing up, and showing him stuff. He started writing about them. More people started showing up, and some were repeat customers. Fast forward, and he’s “the man” at what he does, whether or not you call it news. He does get first crack at many things, because he has built relationships.

Another example of someone who has the right idea is Robert Scoble. I had the pleasure of working on a project with him earlier this year. You know how that started? Robert answered an email, and when I was in the Bay Area in February, we sat down and talked, and came up with a cool idea. You know what else? Robert actually gets in his car, goes places, and talks to people. Some would have a word for that. It’s…Journalism.

You know how we got him those interviews? Two ways: (1) Relationships that I have developed with people, or people who know people, and are willing to help with things and (2) Sheer persistence. Keep calling. Call every day. Find out who to call. Call them. Go to their office. Beat your head against the door until it falls down. I’m not kidding.

Where is all this leading? I don’t want to hear technology media people talk about each other and write about what each other is writing about, or why they are wrong, or this or that.

What do I want from you?

There is a picture of Adlai Stevenson showing a photographer the hole in his shoe that he wore down from campaigning. That’s what I want to see. You want to report news, work the shoe-leather. You want the scoop? Start digging.

Otherwise, you’re just part of the Techo Chamber and no more interesting than the CNN show you just turned off.