Monday, October 19, 2020

It's Not Supposed To Be This Way

A small bit of Henki-lore,

Way back when dinosaurs ruled the earth (the 1980s), I dabbled with the idea of pursuing a degree in journalism. To that end, after a misplaced semester at Slippery Rock State University in Pennsylvania (an institution which produced one of the most perspicacious scholars on football [that's soccer to you] the world has ever known -David Kilpatrick), I moved on to the University of Oregon.

I would like to think that I had the same drive, same ambition, same single-mindedness. And sure, as an 18 year-old Northern Youth emboldened by my ability to smuggle three cases of Guinness into a "dry" dormitory in a laundry bag without even removing the bottles from the box, I thought I was pretty savvy, if not downright sophisticated. In hindsight, he is now referred to as Dr. Kilpatrick and invited to opine around the world. I, on the other hand, vent my spleen to an audience of industry insiders and insomniacs. And yes, gentle reader - he is a much better writer than yours truly. I will let you draw your own conclusions ; )

As previously mentioned, I transferred to the University of Oregon and briefly flirted with the idea of pursuing a degree in journalism, but became convinced (as young men and women in the 80s often did) that my future lay in studying and practicing the law.

Fast forward 20 years and I had been working at mid-level positions in academia (making sure your kids got their financial aid and hopefully a job after graduation), and started writing this blog after a brief (3 year) flirtation in the watch industry with DOXA.

It is not to say that 2010 was so long ago, but the approach to what we did, and the attitude of my (then) peers was decidedly different. There was actually a belief that maybe writing something original was worthwhile. Blogging was not viewed as a "get-rich-quick" avenue, but we found it noble because we felt that maybe we were giving a different perspective, giving small and as yet unknown brands a voice. It was a pursuit that wasn't necessarily attached to making a buck.


A few of us realized that maybe we could make a buck!

And this is where, if I am honest, all the shit went south, and the whole notion of watch journalism became an oxymoron.

If you own a brand today, either you or whoever you have deputized to handle your PR/ Media/ Marketing/Press are sending out press releases with the hopes of coverage. More often than not, you are receiving responses not of "Thank you for sending this, please see our story here -" Instead you receive something rather more calculated. A missive informing you that their outlet's editorial calendar is full, and honestly they just can't fit it in, unless... and yes you can fill in the rest. $200 and up has the remarkable ability to open up editorial space in an outlet. In fairness to one or two of the big five online outlets, the paid content will be appropriately noted as paid ("partner") content on their site. But for a few of the outlets with a pronounced moral flexibility, they don't mention at all the fact that your brand has been (sorry) gently extorted out of a thousand or so dollars to print a "review" of your watch. It is a stinky business, and it needs to change.

For the consumers out there - I am sorry. The world of watch journalism has failed you. And now, you are being hoodwinked on a daily basis. In most cases, you are only reading about watches that someone has paid the outlet on some level to ensure that you will read about them.

For the brands - as soon as you give in to one demand for a pay-to-play scheme for coverage, you will continue to pay (or not be covered). You can, of course, work to change this reality - but only you can do so.

And to my "colleagues" in the Fourth and Fifth Estate who would just as soon spit on me as say hello at BaselWorld?

You are only fooling yourselves. Get a wash, and maybe remember what it was like to write what was in your heart, as opposed to what was promised in a wire transfer.

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