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SDC Weekly; Watch journalism; Marketing #9
Brand power, Swatch turns 40 and Roger Smith gets another interview.
Hello there! Another week, another blank slate. As is customary, a hearty welcome to all you new subscribers - and thanks to those who have referred others… If you’re part of the furniture here… it is encouraging to have you stick around. If this was shared with you, you can subscribe just below, and find the previous editions here. Onward!
Watch journalism revisited
Last week we covered the Revolution/Massena lab collaboration, and earlier in June, I shared this Instagram post about ‘watch journalism’ related to Perezcope’s Omega fakery revelation. Here’s a few snips from a chat I had with Timo Holz, the CEO at Fratello Watches. (Shared with permission; And for the record, I don’t ever share private conversations without permission!)
There was more to it, and I shared these specific snips to point out that I am fully aware of the fact that not all journalists are sitting there with their thumbs up their own butts writing like shills with no interest in providing value to their readers - and also to share that Timo is actually a decent, approachable and thoughtful fellow1! Many other watch related journalists were quick to remind me about the dynamics of biting the hand that feeds them, and how they must tread carefully with whatever they report, so as to protect their future income streams… and yes, as I told Timo, this dynamic is not lost on me.
Definitions and key points:
Another definition: Journalism: the collection, preparation, and distribution of news and related commentary and feature materials through print and electronic media4.
Call me Captain Obvious, but this was worth defining because what is not included in the definition, is the underlying social contracts that go along with this - also known as ethics and standards. The Society of Professional Journalists has a useful code of ethics from which I will pick 3 key points:
Be vigilant and courageous about holding those with power accountable. Give voice to the voiceless.
Recognise a special obligation to serve as watchdogs over public affairs and government. Seek to ensure that the public’s business is conducted in the open, and that public records are open to all.
Balance the public’s need for information against potential harm or discomfort. Pursuit of the news is not a license for arrogance or undue intrusiveness.
Now… There are two very similar, but separate issues here;
Journalists sharing honest opinions
Journalists reporting facts
On honest opinions:
The cry of “we can’t bite the hand that feeds us” is an unbelievably lazy belief. It is of course easy to stick with the status-quo, because nobody likes to rock the boat while everyone’s having a good time. What big watch media has, and what brands benefit from, is reach. If big watch media really wanted to, they could simply form an industry alliance of standards, and take a f*cking stand. Watch brands and related watch industry entities such as auction houses may well be tempted to boycott a single media entity for sharing honest takes which happen to be negative…. But instead, if honest, unbiased reporting were to become the norm5, then collectively, big watch media gets to practice real journalism and consumers get to read something useful, instead of marketing blurb. Brands won’t like it, but if its a collective effort, an industry stand if you will, what choice would they have? I have previously mentioned MKBHD as an example - a tech industry juggernaut, a source of honest, unbiased reporting… and even though he sometimes says negative things about brands, they continue to support him because he is fair! How hard is that?
On the Revolution/Massena launch, the main annoyance was that big media had a huge public circle-jerk about a homage watch - when for example, 6 months prior, the same thing was launched by a random homage company and all of them were silent. Is this even journalism? Here’s another definition for the pedants:
Marketing: the action or business of promoting and selling products or services, including market research and advertising.
The problem for me is simple; watch journalists who feel hamstrung by this conflict of interest between honesty and the annoyance of their clients, have difficulty accepting the idea that they’re marketers instead of journalists. Journalism has increasingly taken on characteristics of marketing over time - and marketing has taken on more aspects of journalism - the characteristic in question here is the rise of content marketing. The sleight of hand is psychological… long-form content makes a recognised expert of a business or organisation, and this leads to more sales.
There is no need for advertisements to look like advertisements. If you make them look like editorial pages, you will attract about 50 per cent more readers.
On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.
In short: a creative headline does 80% of the selling (marketing), and an advert that looks like an editorial will attract 50% more viewers (journalism).
Anyway, perhaps I sound like I am taking edibles and as naïve as a 5 year old - so let’s park this pipe dream and move to the next one7. Collectors will sniff out the BS themselves, and in the end, those who find themselves eating said BS and buying into the
journalistic marketing content are fools who have been parted from their money8.
This is where I really struggled to understand how big watch media sh*t the bed on the Perezcope story (and this was also the topic of discussion with Timo Holz above). What happened there: One of the biggest watch brands in the world was involved in selling a shady watch at auction, even Bloomberg reported on it, and all these big watch media companies who employ journalists chose to stay quiet! I refer back to the 3 code of ethics points I shared above. Does this sound right to you? Again, this was the point of my discussion with Timo - and to his credit, Fratello eventually DID write about it too in the end. Not without some convincing, though… and many others followed suit, and were quick to then shout from the rooftops about it. Then, only a month later, there was more fraud revealed at Antiquorum, and you guessed it: they were all back to being silent.
It’s a fine line, and as Timo explained, he’s got his own demons to battle with; he’s got jobs to protect, and he’s got his own journalistic pride to uphold. It isn’t easy, but I will end with 2 points; 1) the industry is too weak, and they need to stand up for themselves as a unit and 2) reporting facts is never slander, and watch media should stop choosing the easy road as this is treading awfully close to not being worthy of the ‘journalist’ title - if you’re not even going to report facts, then you’re not a journalist at all - you’re just a writer who produces marketing copy.
Links of interest
😇 Missed it last week, but Swatch, the brand that forever changed watchmaking, turned 40! Thanks Brendan!
🤩 Europastar interviews our old mate Roger Smith again - A lot of marketing for his UK alliances etc, but the chat about a watch which might never need servicing was exciting. Seems unlikely, but such lofty ambitions are always great to see.
🔬 Bioengineers have used artificial intelligence to bring molecules back from the dead!
⚡ There’s a lot of talk about superconductor breakthroughs recently - Maybe a Breakthrough, Maybe Not So Much
⏰ I am astounded I hadn’t heard of this - Some call it the Millennium Clock, others call it the Clock of the Long Now. Jeff Bezos calls it the 10,000-Year Clock, and, since he’s spent an estimated $42 million to build it inside a mountain that he owns, that name is a real contender. Wired reckons it is a waste of time (Lol!).
💀 This is super interesting! Learn about How concrete, asphalt and urban heat islands add to the misery of heat waves.
🧪 If you have about 10-15 mins, try this social intelligence test - it tests how well can you read emotions of others just by looking at their eyes. Harder than you might think! I got 32 out of 37. Let me know how you do! (Note: won’t work on mobile)
I shared a new post last week:
There’s a lengthy preview which you can access now, but the full post will be sent to free subscribers via email - this is my way of getting you to subscribe - its free :)
Don’t forget to do the social intelligence test, curious to hear how you did!
Until next time,
Bonus link: They Don't Teach You This About Honey Bees in Schools 🐝
Thanks for taking the time, Timo!
What a preposterous idea!
Even outside of watches, this is apparently the norm. Here’s an Economist post about writing critics on the subject.
I can hear the violins.