Evaluating Narratives in Tech
Introducing Tech Narratives
I wrote a post for Techpinions almost three years ago now about the danger of narratives in tech, and it’s an idea that I continue to think about a lot and refer to in my analysis.
Narratives are the stories that get told about companies, woven from the myriad of individual data points and news items the tech industry and its reporting class churns out every day. Some of these narratives are created by the companies themselves, but most arise independently, created by reporters, financial analysts, and sometimes competitors. And yet they take on a life of their own, shaping perceptions which often become a substitute for reality, even as the narratives themselves become more and more distant from reality.
Narratives are dangerous things for tech companies: they gain momentum and quickly spiral out of a company’s control, threatening to overtake the story the company wants to tell about itself, and forcing it into defensive mode, refuting the narrative rather than proactively telling its own story. Narratives are also dangerous because they appeal to laziness – it’s so much easier to slot news into an existing prevailing narrative as a way to provide context for a story than to really evaluate the news in its own right. Narratives are a sort of shorthand, but also the company equivalent of a stereotype – there may be some basis in reality, but that reality is often distorted and exaggerated.
I see these narratives arise and grow as I cover the industry for my readers and clients, and I often find it frustrating. I do my best in my own analysis and writing to be more thoughtful about the news and to evaluate it independently of the narratives that exist, in a fact-based way. But I’ve increasingly felt the need for a site which does this in a systematic way for tech news, both evaluating the underlying narratives and putting daily news in a proper context.
That’s why, since about mid-December, I’ve been working on a site to fill this need, and it’s called simply Tech Narratives. The site combines two things: short commentary on the day’s top tech news stories, and a deeper evaluation of the prevailing narratives in the industry. If you visit the homepage, you’ll see a real time feed of the analysis of the latest news, but you’ll also see that each item is tagged against companies and topics, so that clicking on them will take you to a listing of stories about those companies and topics. But almost every news item is also tagged against a narrative, and clicking on that tag will take you to an evaluation of that narrative, as well as a listing of other news items attached to it.
My intention here is to both challenge some of the prevailing narratives and provide a more fact-based approach to evaluating the day’s main tech news. I won’t cover every bit of tech news in the day – I focus on those I think are most significant – but hope to provide enough value to help readers make better sense of the news they read. The site should be a great complement to a reader’s daily diet of tech news, whether that comes from one particular publication, from a Twitter or RSS feed, or from an aggregator like Techmeme.
For now, everything on the site is free. Over the coming weeks, I plan to finalize the business model for the site, which will rely on a partial paywall to help pay for all the work it takes to maintain it. There will be a monthly subscription at $10 per individual, with some multiple of that for corporate subscriptions, and the highest value content will remain behind the paywall while some content will stay outside of it. I’m still working through the details of this and will share more in the coming weeks.
In the meantime, I hope you’ll visit today, but also subscribe as appropriate through Twitter, RSS, or email so you can get a continuous feed of the commentary on the site, which is how you’ll get the most value out of it. And above all, I welcome your feedback, whether it’s positive or negative, on what’s working and what isn’t (technically and otherwise), how you think the site could be more useful, or anything. I used a small group of beta testers who provided some valuable feedback a couple of weeks back, but haven’t yet had a chance to incorporate all of that feedback yet, so I have a roadmap for future enhancements already. You can find me on Twitter as jandawson, where my DMs are open, or email me at jan (at) jackdawresearch (dot) com.