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Just Say No To CES

Forbes logo Forbes 04-01-2016 Ewan Spence, Contributor

This week will see the almost complete roster of technology start-ups, consumer electronics companies, multi-national conglomerates, and the world’s tech press corps descend on Las Vegas for a week of excess, energy and excitement. Actually not every tech reporter. Once more I’ll be sitting at home, content in my choice to go left when everyone else feels the need to be forced to go right.

CES Logo (Image: CES PR)© Provided by Forbes CES Logo (Image: CES PR)

It won’t be hard to replicate the CES experience here in Scotland. I’d ask the bank to increase my mortgage five-fold (but just for this month), I’d leave all my food out for two hours under a very hot light before eating, I’d only allow myself to drink Pepsi or Sierra Mist, and I’d lock away all the really nice tea in the kitchen (before locking the kitchen).

Or I could change my mind and fly to Vegas. I could decide to see all the set-piece presentations where I’ll learn exactly what is written in the emailed press release that is sent to the writers back at their keyboards in offices hundreds of miles away from the press conferences (and those at the press events will have no Wi-fi to write up the release). I could prowl the exhibition floorspace for that elusive ‘next big thing’, or I could realise that next big thing is only taking private meetings with a handful of reporters who have already agreed coverage.

Attendee Jacqueline Sharp converses via Beam, a remote presence system manufactured by Suitable Technologies Inc., during CES in Las Vegas (Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg)© Provided by Forbes Attendee Jacqueline Sharp converses via Beam, a remote presence system manufactured by Suitable Technologies Inc., during CES in Las Vegas (Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg)

More than any other technology conference, CES places far too many demands on everyone involved to simply conform to the event or be eaten alive. It’s utterly jam-packed, and as a result the opportunity to critically talk about products is lost in a rush to ‘blog and cover’ while moving on to the next product a few yards down the hallway, pausing only to capture a quick product shot, quote, soundbite, or initial impression coloured by the marketing teams buzzing around anyone with a press badge.

CES asks that everyone’s product cycle syncs up to the same deadline of early January so they can each have ‘something new’ to show off or they will somehow be seen to be left behind in the ensuing rush of publicity. While the major companies do their best to sidestep this (Microsoft joined Apple’s ‘not playing anymore’ stance in 2013), other players have little choice but to rock up with something that they can shout about, hoping they can shout the loudest, and maybe get a few paragraphs of online coverage.

As for the online coverage, the expectation is that CES will be comprehensively covered by every publication, resulting in a flood of coverage that makes it more difficult for individual stories to break through, more difficult for products to be noticed organically, and more difficult for anything to cut through the hundreds of thousands of stories, blog posts, and social media entries from the show.

Join me. Just say no to CES.

CES 2016: Everything You Need To Know >>

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