I called my wife Tuesday from the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas:
"Forget about building that addition on the house. We need the money for the 150-inch TV I just saw."
Understandably alarmed, she pointed out that we would probably still need the contractor to build a steel-reinforced wall in the man cave to mount my dream television.
As I snapped back to reality, I surveyed the vast expanse of the Central Hall at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Hundreds of exhibitors covered the floor, each showing their own combo digital HD camcorder/DVD player/cellphone/plasma screen/gaming console.
If you’ve been there, you know that the effect can be overwhelming. Without a knowledgeable guide to highlight truly innovative products, a massive trade show like CES can rapidly become a tiring bore.
One of the perks of being CEO of Discover is that I was able to walk the floor with our news editor, Tyghe Trimble. With Tyghe’s guidance, I saw some truly amazing technologies:
- a Fujitsu security scanner that reads the veins in your hand
- Intel’s mind-bogglingly tiny 45 nanometer chip
- Sanyo’s waterproof camcorder
- the latest GPS-powered Celestron SkyScout telescope
Tyghe also separated the quality from the dreck for Discover’s Web readers, blogging from the event 2-3 times a day.
Across the show, magazine editorial teams performed the same filtering function, including Popular Mechanics (who had their own branded blog HQ above the floor of the Central Hall), Wired and niche tech titles too numerous to mention. The coverage spanned multiple platforms—daily blog entries, online video, podcasts, in-book product review packages and "best of" award events.
CES reinforced why print’s self-flagellation about digital content is so pointless. First, major advertisers realize that the leading magazine brands are still the most trusted and influential arbiters of what products are good. That’s why they hype the awards in their booths and, more importantly, pay significantly more for a single magazine ad page than for a month of online impressions.
Second, the preponderance of CES coverage shows that publishers are aggressively taking advantage of their online products’ immediacy and interactivity. This may be more apparent in a tech-heavy environment like CES, but it exposes the fallacy that magazine publishers are ceding any ground to pure-play Internet providers.
I plan to explore this argument further in future posts. For now, though, I need to get back to preparing the man cave for the Super Bowl.