Last week Quentin Hardy, deputy tech editor for The New York Times, announced that he was heading to Google to take up the role of head of editorial. Hardy, one of the more respected tech journalists working within a traditional publication, has long been a fixture at technology conferences and could always be relied upon to assert his view -- be it in an exec Q&A or at a press/influencer dinner.
This hiring is interesting from two angles. First, yet again it highlights just how seriously Google is approaching its cloud business. Since Google hired VMware co-founder and former CEO Diane Greene to head up its entire cloud division, which covers both G Suite (formerly Google Apps) and the Google Cloud Platform, there have been a steady stream of high-profile hires.
Sam Ramji, former CEO of the Cloud Foundry Foundation, is but one example. Hiring a scribe well-versed in all things cloud is a natural move for this vendor that desperately wants to find a way to articulate a point of difference from its bigger public cloud siblings, Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure.
On another level, however, this hire is yet another example of someone on the commentator side moving over to the vendor side. It is an ongoing theme: The ranks of analysts, both independent and from the more traditional firms, has been decimated by vendors with deep pockets. Michael Cote from 451 Research, Jack Clark from Bloomberg, Rene Buest from Crisp Research, Vanessa Thompson from IDC and Derrick Harris from Gigaom -- all have all moved over from their former roles as analysts/journalists into vendor-side roles.
There is, of course, a natural reason for this. Technology vendors are, almost without exception, surprisingly bad at articulating what they do in the context of nontechnical language. That might be fine when your market target is early-adopter technologists, but when you're targeting the mass majority market, and hence need to send a message that is understandable by everyone in the C suite (and not just the CTO), a broader messaging position is needed.
At the same time, the ever-growing need for content as a tool to fill the sales funnel means that having people who can listen, synthesize and quickly produce good copy is a trait that marketing and sales teams alike love.
Of course, the exodus of these independents isn't fantastic from other perspectives. Increasingly the technology media, forced as it is to find new revenue streams, becomes little more than a mouthpiece for vendors. There are plenty of examples of technology blogs purporting to be independent but continually spouting positive review of vendors' news, with the tiniest little disclosure that the vendor in question is a sponsor or "partner" of the outlet.
There looks to be no end to this trend, and there is a dearth of fresh voices moving into the ranks of commentators. Of course this is, in part, because it is increasingly hard from an economics perspective to make commentary work. I've already mentioned the precarious state of independent (and general) media, but the same goes for the analyst ranks -- both the established brands (Gartner, Forrester, IDC, etc.) and the smaller independent shops.
Who knows how far this trend will go? What I do know is that it is getting increasingly lonely at vendor events where the ratio of vendor representatives to independent commentators keeps getting worse and worse.
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