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The BBC struggles with concept of 'tech bubble'

Only bad people have bad thoughts, says Newsnight

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In fact, the intelligent viewer will have spotted the flaw in the valuations, but Newsnight either didn't recognise it, or if it did, moved swiftly on. Julie Meyer told us the companies receiving investments were largely revenue-free, but the valuations were justified because they might become a "platform". This can only refer to Facebook and Twitter – not the start-ups – although this was never made clear to the viewer.

Many of the start-ups are simply third-party add-ons to Facebook, are not "platforms", and have no chance of ever becoming "platforms", either. Yet Facebook and Twitter themselves were struggling for revenue and were being forced to eat the third party. This effectively told us the bubble will burst. But it wasn't allowed to spoil the discussion. The Unicorn was left to gambol about unmolested in the Magic Garden for a bit longer.

You may have your own theory about why TV has a blindness when it comes to covering web business in a grown-up way. Perhaps the producers secretly wish they were in Shoreditch, hanging out at Bar Barian with Steve Bong and Ophelia Whimsy. But I suspect that the real reasons are more prosaic.

Thinking of unicorns allows TV people to avoid thinking about technology. Right now, money is currently pouring into fascinating technologies such as synthetic hydrocarbons. But when the BBC or a marketing person says "tech", they mean the wibbly, wobbly web. A focus on the web means the journalist can avoid all that complicated stuff like science – some of which, apparently, smells quite unpleasant. Far easier to mystify it.

The problem is much of this defies mystification. The social media bits and bobs are useful but quite dull bits of comms infrastructure: like a PBX switch, or a phone book. They'll never be completely useless, or ever be in a position to be vastly profitable. (Software is easily copied, and users jump very easily between web services). But as long as journalists can continue to imbue them with "childlike wonder", they can continue in their comfort zone, and avoid reality in another way: by not looking at a balance sheet. That too, they find difficult and unpleasant.

And this is what (most) journalists failed to do last time. The crash followed. ®

See The Register Guide To Shoreditch Tech Start-Ups and (from 2005!) Six Things You Need to Know about Bubble 2.0

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