Several sectors question the independence of the press in the HiFi industry. How reliable are paid reviews really? How strong is the character of an editor-in-chief when advertisers threaten to withdraw their funding, if unfavorable test results are published? These kinds of questions then come up.
Although Alpha-Audio does not receive payment for tests and reviews, it has to live largely on advertising revenue. One way to do that is through display advertising. There are other agreements about the amount of visibility on the platform and there is a store locator that retailers can join.
Our own editor-in-chief Jaap Veenstra shows in the video “My love-hate relationship with online publishing in the audio-industry”. how difficult it can be to guarantee this independence. Here he refers, among other things, to the inappropriate way advertisers sometimes apply pressure to get favorable press coverage.
Alpha-Audio’s situation, of course, is by no means unique. This dilemma occurs everywhere. A problem for readers is that it is often not clear how independent a publishing outlet ultimately is.
Still, consumers should expect the press to be independent enough to provide them with reliable information on all topics of interest. Let’s take a closer look at the area of tension that Veenstra mentions. That is the independence of the press in its relationship with advertisers. In this case, these are mainly manufacturers, importers and distributors.
Codes for Journalism
Precisely independence and truthfulness are important elements in the codes for journalism being drawn up in all sorts of places. For example, in the “Code for Journalism” of the Dutch Association of Journalists and in the “Journalistic Code” of the Press Council in Belgium. But there are many more examples.
It is important to emphasize in journalistic codes that this independence and truthfulness of the media must be maintained precisely in a situation of commercial intertwining, instead of thinking that 100% independence always exists.
The press and providers in HiFi need each other
The press and producers such as manufacturers, importers and distributors in HiFi need each other. The press needs advertisements to supplement subscription fees, equipment to test and paid reviews.
Moreover, the press in HiFi can only exist if there is a viable industry with manufacturers developing and supplying equipment. Conversely, vendors need the press, for example, for exposure, for third-party judgments (like: “they say it too”!) and credible neutral test results. It is no different, these parties are intimately intertwined.
Then it is indeed also very important for the HiFi sector to consider how the press can maintain its independence as much as possible in the interplay with manufacturers, importers and distributors.
What about consumers?
It is companies such as media companies, manufacturers, distributors, importers, financial companies and suppliers that together determine what the role of the press in HiFi ultimately looks like. What about the consumers?
In the area of tension that Veenstra mentions in the cited video, consumers play a major role. A HiFi producer in this unsubsidized industry will not be profitable in the long run if consumers do not pay. The same goes for the media. In the long run, they too will not be viable if consumers fail. So it is reasonable if consumers have a say in how the industry is set up. Well, this is sorely lacking.
What if consumers do want to know
Of course, all kinds of research is done when it comes to consumers, such as what products they want to buy, how those products are used and what their conscious and unconscious motivations are. But, the thinking is usually “As long as you buy the final product, then it doesn’t matter how that final product was created and what its quality actually is. How a producer markets is usually labeled as internal information. The same goes for how the production process works, where the parts come from, etc.
But what if consumers do want to know? On the press side, for example, it is often not clear whether and how reviews and tests are paid for, how manufacturers put pressure on journalists and which reviews and tests are not published after consultation with the manufacturer. This is another area where consumers, in the case of the media these are readers and users, would like to have a say.
As mentioned, still, consumers ultimately carry the entire industry!