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Mobile World Congress: are trade shows a media turnoff?

Posted by Claire Barber on 31st March 2010

Wildfire PR jumped on a plane to Barcelona last month, with a number of our clients who were taking part in Mobile World Congress (MWC).

MWC is without a doubt the largest mobile phone trade show on the planet, with some of the biggest names in technology competing for attention.  But despite the array of shiny new handsets, we noticed many of the journalists weren’t in the throngs of the crowds, but chained to their laptops in the press room.

It got me thinking: what do journalists really want to get out of a 21st century trade show when they make the effort to attend?

I spoke to Gareth Beavis at consumer electronics website TechRadar and Andrew Lim from Recombu to get the inside scoop into what really gets them going about trade shows, and how digital media is changing the job they do before, during and after the event.

Instant information

The immediacy of the web and use of social media platforms like Twitter has changed trade show reporting for good.  Gone are the days when roving reporters spent their time gathering information from exhibitors on the stand, collecting press packs and returning to the newsroom to report on the event.

Instead, they are focused on getting the big stories written and filed at the show, in a race to get their news to the eye of the consumer first.  Social media tools mean they can quickly and frequently check the exclusivity of their stories in an environment where news is quickly out of date.

For online publications such as TechRadar and Recombu, news has to be posted online instantly. “This adds a lot of pressure,” Gareth told me, “Twitter basically lets you know how much further ahead everyone else is.”  With this in mind, it seems almost inevitable that fewer journalists are spending less time on trade show stands and a lot more time tapping their stories out in the press room.

Getting hands on

Gareth assured me that events like Mobile World Congress remain firmly on the radar for the tech journalist, giving them a great opportunity to get up close and personal with the latest gadgetry on offer:  “Trade shows are ace; they offer so many hands-on opportunities and interviews with key execs, which are pivotal to us.”

New, new, new

Product launches hold ‘hard news’ value and the most appeal for journalists. Andy told me: “I’m looking for a good product launch, and I’d advise companies to wait for the show to announce it, with no pre-briefs.”  So, having new devices on display (that haven’t been seen or announced before), backed up with a good hands-on interactive stand experience is absolutely key, giving journalists the opportunity to develop their own unique take on a launch.

picture credit

Claire Barber