New freelance gig: writing for CEA

A week ago, I alluded to the prospect of more work but didn’t name anybody responsible. Now I can: I’ll be writing a weekly post and recording a monthly podcast about the state of consumer electronics for the Consumer Electronics Association’s Tech Enthusiast site.

The TE site, as you may have read in my post about its debut last fall, is CEA’s venture into connecting with consumers. Membership cost $49 a year at first but is currently $29, and you’ll need one to read my work there, as CEA’s press release explains.

(Yes, it feels a little odd to write behind a paywall–aside from a free webinar on the perils of gadget procurement I’ll be hosting on Oct. 5. I haven’t done that in a long time.)

When I left the Post, the people at this Arlington trade association were quick to suggest that I start blogging for them. I was not as fast to accept their proposed freelance arrangement. The idea of being paid to write news by somebody besides a news organization is relatively new, at least to me, and I needed some time to think through it.

Here’s the deal: As the traditional media have cut back, companies and associations can’t count on the same coverage, and some have decided that they need to get into the news business themselves. The Chicago Bulls, for example, hired former Chicago Tribune reporter Sam Smith to cover the team and the NBA, and the Washington Capitals employ reporters of their own. (Caps owner Ted Leonsis wrote this spring that reader interest left him no choice: “We want to feed the monster.”) Many of my fellow freelance tech journalists have written for such company-underwritten news sites as Cisco’s The Network and HP’s Input Output.

And when I mentioned this possibility to friends and colleagues, some in journalism and some outside of it, most said “go for it.” A few warned that it might distract from me from better opportunities. We’ll see.

I didn’t hear any objections from current and potential freelance clients either; this doesn’t take the place of the blogging I continue to do for Discovery News. (One magazine editor joked that he could no longer assign me a profile of CEA president Gary Shapiro.)

It helps that CEA is paying an eminently fair freelance rate for my services. But you should be clear about what CEA has bought with that money: analysis, not advertising. They want somebody to give TE members insight about what’s going on in the industry, and that won’t always be positive. My first post, for example, gets into reasons for the disappointing launch of 3-D TV.

My contract does ensure one thing, though: I will be attending CES for the 15th year in a row this January.

Updated 1/31/2012 with a link to a non-paywalled version of the 3D piece.