Needless to say, I love gadget blogs. I read hundreds of them, and even write one or two. We gadget bloggers do a lot of things well, I think. For example, many are good at boiling down complex feature sets into concise, meaningful nuggets of useful information or conveying a sense of which products and features are most important, and which are not. Some excel at breaking stories. Others find and expose products nobody else seems to have known about. Still others are so engagingly written that they're fun to read even if you don't care about the products they're covering. However, there are five things many gadget bloggers do that, well, do a disservice to readers. I'm listing these not to bad-mouth my colleagues in the blogosphere, but as constructive criticism so the entire category improves.
Here they are: My five ways gadget blogs fail readers:
FAIL #1: No follow-up. Companies make claims all the time. For example, companies say their product will ship by, say, the end of March or "some time in Q1." Half the time, it seems, those claims turn out to have been wishful thinking or deliberate FUD. You don't have to report their claims. But if you do print company claims in your blog, make sure you follow up and tell your readers if the companies failed to stick to those claims. It's easy. Just set up an item in your calendar to remind yourself when deadlines pass. That way, you can hold companies accountable and avoid misleading your readers.
FAIL #2: Cover concepts as products. I love product concepts. They're fun to cover. But make sure you differentiate between actual products, with manufacturing, marketing and product support behind them, and concepts, which are often just some dude playing around with Adobe Illustrator. It's true that real products go through a concept phase. But that doesn't mean concepts go through a real product phase. Concept designers tend to be very good at creating awesome computer-generated images, but often fail to even suggest how their concepts would work. My advice to gadget bloggers is to go ahead and cover concepts. Just make sure you're crystal clear with readers that all they're looking at is a sketch dreamed up by someone who doesn't make products.
FAIL #3: Ignore IP theft. Successful consumer electronics tend to be copied by "shanzhai" counterfeiters in China. Shanzhai culture is fun to cover. But many gadget blogs make the mistake of treating them as the equals of legitimate products. Since the iPhone shipped, for example, several replica models have emerged in China, some even manufactured by large companies. Far too many gadget blogs covered these not as curious-but-illegal oddities, but seriously, like they were legitimate products. Many reported on the Meizu M8 mini One, for example, as "better than the iPhone" because it looked just like Apple's phone but had additional functionality, like an FM radio. Come on, Bloggers. The iPhone is a legitimate, legal, popular, significant device that many of your readers will actually buy. But 99.9% of your readers will never see a Meizu M8, a shady, illegal, illegitimate item that will never be sold legally in the US or Europe. Please don't cover them as if your readers will be choosing between one or the other.
FAIL #4: Write me-too reviews. Long ago, the Internet didn't exist. People got information about consumer electronics from newspapers and magazines. Each of these publications had to cover all the major products in their coverage areas, or readers would never find out about them. Don't look now, but those days are gone. Unless you have something new to report, don't report it! If someone wants to read the review consensus on a product, they'll search Google. If you're merely agreeing with that consensus, there's no reason to publish a me-too review.
FAIL #5: Too many items in lists. This isn't about gadgets per se, but about software and Web site coverage. Numbered lists are popular, but let's keep the numbers under control, people. 100 Essential Twitter tools. 200 free PC optimizers. 500 great iPhone apps. Come on. What's the value of lists are contain too many items for anyone to go through? Find the best five and junk the rest. More is not better. Do the readers a service and actually eliminate the duds for them.