While recently scouring the web for my daily fix of PC madness, I came across an article at Overclockers that gave me pause. The crux was that service sites such as ours are finding it very difficult to introduce new content into the web, they cited Anandtech as an example. They hadn’t updated the site for 17 days due to “lack of any interesting products” and the holidays. I had noticed a slowdown but didn’t realize it was 17 days. I can understand the assumption that there wasn’t anything interesting to write about. I just don’t believe it.
Try a little experiment. Make your rounds of the most visited service websites, the big names. What do they all have in common? Chances are you will see the same news, same reviews and same articles posted on each of those sites. This incestuous relationship is one of the main reasons there seems to be nothing worth investing your time in. Yeah, I really liked the first 10 reviews I read on the Radeon 9700, but after that, things got a little stale (insert your favorite sarcastic smirk here). I want everyone to answer a couple of questions for me. Do you spend 24 hours everyday, 7 days a week in front of your PC? No, I didn’t think so. Do you have a family? Of course you do. Do you have any interests that don’t involve PC games, pr0n, or 3Dmark? My guess is a resounding YES.
Believe it or not, there are thousands of reviews being posted as we speak that you will never see. Why? A great deal of it goes back to the relationship between the major sites I mentioned above. It’s very hard for small start up sites to obtain product samples of new items; generally they have to purchase them. This is not a bad thing; you have to earn the confidence of the suppliers in order to obtain the samples. Somebody has to pay for them and would you want to give them up to anybody who asked? Another offshoot of this policy is that the younger sites will often perform a needed service, if anyone could find them. They review existing products and some that may be a little older. Why is this important? I enjoyed reading all the previews for the new GeForce FX, it looks like it will be an astounding video card. What about 3 months down the road? Are they still going to be as meticulous in their design and production as they were when they ship out those first cards? That’s where the little guy comes in. He couldn’t get a free sample when they were introduced and couldn’t afford to buy his own, but now the price has come down and resellers/manufacturers are more lenient on their policies of loaning samples. The reviews you read earlier were IQ (initial/installation qualification); these reviews are OQ (operation qualification). This is how they perform in the real world after the gold rush period is over. The profit margins are slimmer and more hands are in the pot.
Another area where the big guys have been sleeping on the job is, for lack of a better word, alternative reviews/articles. What I am talking about here are the cameras, printers and such mentioned earlier. Even if you live and breathe computers, you still have to live amongst other humans and they WILL force you to interact, no matter how hard you try to avoid them. God knows I’ve tried. They will, inevitably, begin to talk about subjects other than fps and flops. Eventually you too will find an interest in these areas. The point is we all have things we like besides strict hardware issues.
It behooves the tech sites of the web to truly become TECH sites. Cover it all, not just the latest from AMD, Intel, Nvidia or ATI. People want more and they are going to get it, if not from you then someone else. It could be that lame site you were laughing at for the noob graphics earlier. Just because the name of your site happens to be PCHardwareforcoolingonlynothingelse.com doesn’t mean you can’t throw in the spare reference to MP3’s.
I tell people that whether you got into this biz for free stuff, cash or the babes (still waiting on that), always remember that you are providing a valuable service to consumers. People visit your site because they are looking for comments, advice, entertainment, etc.
One thing I have to mention is the quality of reviews I have seen lately. They are getting horrendous. The content is barely passable and the grammar/spelling is atrocious. I won’t remember if I saw 10 or 15 reviews on your site, but I will remember the one that made me say, “Damn! That was schweet!” Pictures can compliment a fine article; they can’t “make” an article. I have to reiterate the fact that people may actually READ something that you write. You may be the one that pushes them to purchase or not purchase a product. Now, you can be cavalier and say it’s their decision; I can’t be responsible for what they do. Then why write a review? If you are in it for the free goodies or to make lots of money, it will show in the quality of your product, product in this case being your site and articles.
So, what’s the message? As Ed stated in his article on Overclockers, those covering the field must broaden their interests to cover what people want, not what’s easy. In other words, get on the bus or get under it. It’s up to you.