During the dot-com boom, many media outlets gave up on real journalism. Instead, they started parroting the good-news propaganda being spouted by dot-commies and Wall Street, helping spread the myth that Internet stocks would never sink and that the dot-coms soon would rule the world.

Trade publications were the worst, writing glowing profiles about companies who wouldn't say what they actually did -- companies who loved to spout off about how much venture capital money they had and how many patents they were filing for, but wouldn't say Word One about the actual product. They just wanted free publicity for sounding cool. And trade pubs, partiuclarly business-minded ones like Red Herring and Business 2.0, ate it up.

A colleague and I took to calling this kind of reporting business pornography. Healthy skepticism was thrown out the window in favor of uncritical, feel-good reporting.

We pledged to avoid business porn at our paper. It was fun seeing marketing people get exasperated when we refused to report press-release claims without challenging them. What was interesting was the number of PR people who agreed with us and were privately gleeful to see reporters stand up to these companies. (Aside: When PR people are sick of a trend, you know it's bullshit.)

Business porn is not dead. Like venture capitalists, it has discovered the optical networking industry. Beware.

I wish, wish, wish that I had invented the "business porn" term, but truth is, I lifted it from an article that likened the business journalism of the day to softcore pornography. I've tried to find that article but with little luck (as you can imagine, any Web search with "porn" in it is disasterous). If anyone's got a clue what/where/when that article was, please /msg me so I can give the author full credit.

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