Rant: PR Puffery Drones On and On
Business Logistics

Rant: PR Puffery Drones On and On

Jeff Bezos had an ace up his sleeve when he visited CBS last Sunday: a video of a drone service promising half-hour delivery times for can’t-wait, won’t-wait Amazon.com customers. Techmeme, the Hansard of the technology sector, was immediately swollen at its top end with follow-up stories making its appearance resemble nothing so much as a boa constrictor that had eaten a badger. Problem was, it was a smoke-and-mirrors conjuring trick. Mr Bezos, the Willy Wonka of the internet, must have known there was little genuine opportunity for this service to be up and running anytime soon. In short, these commercial ‘copters will not fly… or at least not for quite a while.

There were holes in the story you could drive a Hummer through. The drones aren’t going to get regulatory permission for fly space anytime soon. They would be expensive. They couldn’t bear much weight. They might find a GPS-defined destination but how would fulfilment take place? Then there is security. And of course, they would cause the most saintly man to reach for his boyhood catapult and take pot shots. (Or is that last one just me?)

Bezos, like Roald Dahl’s great confectioner, is a brilliant man with an almost obsessive ambition to change the world but in this case his imagination was overshooting quotidian reality. A half-hour delivery promise? Sure, why not. So long as you live near a distribution centre and will be ready to collect your item in situ. And have a flat roof or clear space to land on. And other obstacles to the truth.

But these flies in the ointment didn’t stop the media from writing ‘me too’ stories that effectively acted as a cut-and-paste love-letter to Amazon. After all, there was a cute video and the announcement (of a service that even Bezos conceded would not become operational for years) occurred on the eve of Cyber Monday – itself a risible piece of media manipulation designed to give hacks a peg to hang stories off in exchange for their hyping up sales of the latest gewgaws.

I’m sure lots of the journalists writing the stories hated themselves for it and identified plenty of issues but the modern appetite for news (or, actually, ‘news’) and assumed attention deficit on behalf of readers is such that these stories are deemed worthy of the electrons and dead trees they occupy. This dereliction of journalistic duty left the field open to readers to introduce some much needed perspective; as so often these days, the Comments sections were more valuable than the preceding stories.

It’s a shabby situation and it does nobody who values truth, insight and balance any favours. If it’s true that people get the media they deserve, those interested in the effects of technology on our world must have been very bad indeed.

 

Martin Veitch is Editorial Director at IDG Connect

 

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Martin Veitch

Martin Veitch is Editorial Consultant for IDG Connect

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