Has the CAD trade press failed in its mission to educate the CAD software buyers so they can make good buying decisions? Sure, the CAD press puts out many reviews and its editor and authors freely offer their opinions. But are buyers listening? Does the typical CAD software buyer buy based on a favorable review or an an editor's choice. If I put myself in the shoes of a CAD software buyer, I might just be a little leery of accepting a review or opinion at face value. Maybe as a CAD "insider," I know too much, like the cooks who would never eat at their restaurants. But consider the following:
- Grade inflation. Let's say you are trying to pick an MCAD program and you've narrowed it down to the front runners, SolidWorks and Inventor. You might see what one venerable CAD magazine says about them only to find out that both of them got the magazines highest rating. (Actually, so did KeyCreator. Alibre Design Express and Solid Edge). How to choose?
-Editors choices that aren't. One magazine (CADENCE, now defunct) in one issue gave an Editors Choice award for SolidWorks and Inventor and thinkdesign and VX, all competing products (see press release). That's not a choice, that's a free for all.
-Readers choices lack substance. One popular magazine gives weekly "reader picks" but if you read the fine print, it is given to the products that generate the most web inquiries. There is no mention of how many readers were involved or even if they liked the product. Would you put your professional reputation on the line by picking such a readers' choice?
-Favorable treatment. Several of the large CAD vendors wine and dine the press. Although there is never any explicit contract to provide favorable coverage in return, this practice must at least garner an disproportionate amount of coverage. Even if you ignore that the editor has been provided airfare, a hotel room, dinners and gifts (as is often the custom), doesn't the chunk of time invested by the editor have to translate into articles? This is not exactly fair to vendors without a 'wine and dine' budget.
-Following the money. The pressure to provide coverage to products from advertisers is enormous.
So, who do you trust?