I first found out about Gizmodo’s stupidity on ValleyWag a little earlier today; the post read “What’s the difference between a blogger and a journalist? Nothing, says CNET’s Rafe Needleman. But he’s concerned that ValleyWag, using a TV remote control to turn off video screens at the CES 2008 gadgetfest, will get bloggers disinvited to the event next year. After all, CES only grudgingly started accrediting bloggers to the show.”
I had no idea what Owen Thomas, the post author, was talking about, so I went to Gizmodo and took a look…which turned into a moment of wide-eyed horror.
In a post titled ““, Brian Lam – Editor of Gizmodo – basically bragged about committing corporate sabotage. [The emphasis in the following quote was added by me]
CES has no shortage of displays. And when MAKE offered us some TV-B-Gone clickers to bring to the show, we pretty much couldn’t help ourselves. We shut off a TV. And then another. And then a wall of TVs. And we just couldn’t stop. (And Panasonic, you’re so lucky that 150-incher didn’t have an active IR port.)
Added later, evidently after the backlash began, was the statement that “It was too much fun, but watching this video, we realize it probably made some people’s jobs harder, and I don’t agree with that (Especially Motorola). We’re sorry.” [Once again, the emphasis was added by me]
Before you tell me that corporate sabotage is too strong of a condemnation, let me tell you something…
When Jerry and I met with Kensington, I asked a cheeky question that I only half expected to be answered. I wanted to know what it cost to rent a good-sized booth at CES. I was actually a bit surprised when I was given the answer that a company they knew of had been able to buy a last minute available space (due to cancellation) in the North Hall, for $500,000.
If you haven’t been to CES before, then you might not realize that the North Hall is where all the auto stuff is, and for a tech company like Motorola, Samsung, or Sony it would basically be considered Siberia. So in order to get into the Central Hall, which is where all the bad-ass players like those already named and others like Microsoft would be, the amount could theoretically be much higher, especially considering that these booths are usually huge and elaborate. So right there you have the booth investment.
Then you have all of the people who have been hired to come and work, the press coming to your booth to see your products and hopefully write favorable things about them, but then you also have the most important component present – your buyers. The buyers representing companies that might or might not purchase from you, and who must be wooed and basically impressed by how much better your products are than your competitor’s right across the row.
So let’s say that like many companies, you use video to convey your message and to make your booth more appealing. Or perhaps displays are your business, or perhaps you are the CEO of a company about to give an important demonstration to press and potential buyers about your latest product, and video is one of the means you will use in your presentation.
And in the crowd, there is an anonymous jackass who thinks it would be funny to make your company look ill-prepared, unprofessional, or even worse – to make your product look faulty and unreliable.
Granted, the guy from Motorola was a total pro when his equipment seemingly failed. But as a blogger friend who happened to be present on the front row at this exact Motorola speech where the sabotage occurred told me, when the screen went dark his first thoughts were not that someone must be using a TV-B-Gone clicker as a joke. His reaction was a harsh “How dare you Moto for this technicality — totally unprofessional!”
That was his impression of Motorola at the time of the snafu and afterwards – until he found out that the presentation had been sabotaged.
This was not just a stupid high school prank that had been perpetrated on a faceless victim. This was sabotage that had been done to companies with massive financial investments in their CES appearances. The potential for lost sales, loss of good will, and loss of face was huge.
To find out that this was a deliberate stunt pulled by a group of delegates from the #2 tech blog in the world…I have nothing but a complete loss of respect. What Gizmodo did was simply wrong and quite frankly, in my opinion immoral.
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