Sunday, January 15, 2012

Double Header: CES and SHOT

This past week was the Consumer Electronics Show, in Las Vegas.  This is an annual industry event and while I've never had a job in consumer electronics, I always pay attention to what's going on.   This week brings the SHOT show, also in Vegas, the annual new toy celebration of the Shooting Hunting Outdoor Trade show

Why do I bring up both CES and the SHOT show in the same breath?  Miquel over at Gunfree Zone has a great article on a little controversy over SHOT.  I'm sure you know that SHOT is only open to mainstream sports journalists.
So what is the buzz this year? A New version of the Taurus Judge? Ruger’s Cooper Scout Carbine? Some newfangled piston AR in 300 Blackout? Coonan’s 1911 in .357 magnum? Nope. Actually it's one person: Paul Helinski of GunsAmerica.

Mr. Helinski disapproves that Gun Bloggers should attend the Shooting Hunting and Outdoor trade show. Apparently Gun Blooggers are icky, smell bad and are not “official” media according to him as he posted in the SHOT Show Blog:

Mr. Helinski goes on to say:
Now the question is when you are going to start qualifying internet media?   We have to crawl over nobodies who can install wordpress and have nobody reading anything they write,It isn’t so hard to qualify internet media using and  Why do you waste the manufacturers’ time and make the real internet media have to deal with wish I were internet journalists who are just using your stamp of approve to solicit review guns and accessories?  You’ve created this giant gorilla in the room and we all have to deal with it, and you may think the industry takes your numbers seriously, but everyone sees things for what they are.  If you are serious about bringing value to your exhibitors, you need to vet the press list.
To begin with, aside from punctuation that makes my eyes bleed, this is wrong.  Alexa measures visits by people who use the Alexa toolbar, not all visitors.  (BTW, I'm number 219,130 in the US - I try harder)  I don't think either one of those sites is actually measuring traffic.  More importantly, Helinski is bucking the biggest trend in the world today.

In the early days of radio and TV, the word was broadcasting: putting out a signal to as wide an area and group as you could.  You know this today as basically ABC/CBS/NBC.  In the "cable age" came Narrowcasting (the term is from J. C. R. Licklider, in 1967, and was quite visionary at the time).  Think of the Outdoor Channel, the Sportsman's Channel, the World Fishing Network,  and the dozens of other channels on a cable or satellite system.  These are channels that can get by with a tiny fraction of the audience that the big 3 networks require to maintain a show on the air. 

Today, the term is unicasting and think of things like Pandora, I Heart Radio, or the monster social networking sites, where the user defines their own experience instead of some anointed one defining it for them. If you care to watch this video, you'll see a spokesperson for Pandora drop the term unicasting at about the 1:09 mark (I found several things she said there quite interesting).  Unicasting - the ability for each and every user to customize the experience for themselves is the biggest trend today.  This is why the big newspapers, the big three network newscasts, and the rest of the dinosaur media is dying. 

The gun blogs are in exactly that unicasting space.  If you want an honest review of virtually anything, do you go to a magazine or a friend?  The gun magazines - and all specialized hobby magazines - are faced with the very real conflict that the folks who keep them in business by advertising are providing products for review.  It's not quite like going to a Ford dealer for a review of a Ford, but you are going to someone whose life depends on Ford.  Their bread is buttered by the folks they're reviewing. 

There are gun bloggers among us who do so because they want to become gun magazine writers and maybe be able to go to SHOT.  Fine.  Likewise, the NSSF is perfectly reasonable in trying to present a highly influential group to their exhibitors at SHOT; after all, they're charging them to come to the expo and it would be silly to just throw the doors wide open to anyone who posts about guns now and then.  The problem is that the whole structure might be artificial and on the verge of collapsing.  I don't know how to quantify this, but I bet some people like Tam or Kevin, Say Uncle, Sebastian or  Oleg, have a bigger audience than some of the "influential" people in the crowd at SHOT. 


  1. So much for GunsAmerica - I won't bother to visit any longer.


  2. Just another step to having only "Authorized Journalists" being the "Only Ones" who'll get First Amendment protection....

  3. You kidding me? Im sure Tam knows enough people to breeze into SHOT like a Queen Bee into the Hive. I have no doubt that her daily viewers outnumber Mr. Helinski's by some factor with one or two zeros attached at the end.

    If I was a gun manufacturer, I would MUCH rather have an "its serviceable and accurate" from Tam than a gushing review from any dead tree rag.

  4. Well, actually, I got into SHOT as neither a "journalist" or a blogger: I'm an NRA-Certified Instructor and Range Safety Officer who teaches and RSOs at my club and was looking for training aids and training programs. That happens to include: suitable firearms for use with my students, gun security products that are suitable and reasonably-enough priced for my students to secure their firearms, publication info that I can recommend to my students (special thanks to Concealed Carry magazine!) and accessories that my students might find useful.

    SHOT welcomed me, and I appreciated that.

  5. Anon 1135 - thanks for that info. I know the show is for professionals, but I don't know all of what that means.

    Taylor - I've been treated to a few "Tam-alanches" and she moves a tremendous amount of traffic. I wouldn't doubt what you say in the least. Come to think of it, I think she's writing for one of the gun mags, now.