I've been mulling a problem over for awhile now. Yesterday's "announcement" by Schneider is just one example of the problem: what constitutes an announcement? How do I convey properly to site readers what is reality versus projection, conjecture, or promise?
Beginning today, I'm going to get more careful in the way I use words describing new products, especially here in the News/Views section:
- Released, Shipped, Delivered—I'll use these words only when deliveries have begun to stores and customers.
- Announced, Introduced—I'll use these words only when full details of the product, including pricing and delivery dates in the US are available or clearly implied.
- Pre-announced, Planned, Previewed, Upcoming—For press releases where there are no fine details, where significant information is missing, or where there is a large time gap between the press release and the intended ship date (or no ship date at all), I'll make that clear by avoiding words that that imply currency and instead use ones that imply futureness.
- Leaked, Hinted at—Especially in the mirrorless world, we have a lot of intentional (and probably planned) leaking of information going on. This is reinforced by all the rumor sites operating in the camera world now, most of which are plastered with affiliate links within the text of stories. This is particularly an issue with pre-order links now. As we've seen with the D800 and OM-D as well as a number of other hot products, the on-line stores accepting those pre-orders have no idea of when or how many they can ship, they're simply elbowing each other to try to get orders on hot products. Some stores are updating their sites based upon information published on Web sites announcing products, not from information they get from manufacturers. I'll remind people that I now have a policy of not linking to pre-orders. I use affiliate links only when a product has begun shipment, and in a few cases, even then I won't link to it because I know that the pre-orders haven't even been filled.
- Roadmap, Intention, In Development—Vague future products plans with little or no details, basically just a stake in the ground with no promise of specifics.
I'm sure I'll add a few words to each of those categories, but I'm going to try to be consistent. In essence, this site's policy could be construed as "live in the present, not the future." While I've long lobbied for things like road maps from these companies, there's a big difference between users planning for the future versus getting duped into believing that the future is already here. (Astute readers will note that I include road map information at the bottom of the the main lens database page for each maker, when known. That's useful planning information, but it isn't a guarantee.)
As a former high tech marketing manager myself, the camera companies are getting into the same "gotta have a press release or announcement" frenzy that the computer industry once was in. There's a paranoia factor that says "oh no, the competition has announced something so we'd better, too." Coupled with all the intentional leaking that is going on, we basically have a full resurrection of the old IBM FUD tactics (echoed by many in the personal computer industry, and now the camera industry).
FUD is fear, uncertainty and doubt. Basically these companies don't want you to make up your mind about something that you can buy today because there might be something you'd like better coming down the pike at some unspecified time. That future product may or may not be better, and their competitor might actually have responded with fixes, additions, or new products by then, either. It's dangerous relying upon future promises when making purchase decisions. There's high risk in doing that, with potential low or no reward.
Thus, in good faith to my readers, I can no longer promulgate the product messages the way the marketing organizations of these companies are issuing them. I'm going to be much more careful of my wording concerning "announcements" in the future.
Oh, and one other thing: this site (and bythom.com) respects embargo dates. I don't try to sneak press release materials in early in order to look like I'm the first. I don't care if I'm the first, and neither should you. I care about accuracy and clarity and context.