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CES 2013 offers lots of story ideas for local business beats

The mega trade expo known as the CES, or Consumer Electronics Show, kicks off Jan. 8 and as usual will generate quite a buzz nationwide as new technology, gadgets, apps and other innovations for the home, car and beyond are unveiled. 

CNET preview of CES 2013

Brian Tong, senior editor CNET, previews CES 2013.

It’s one of the largest of the annual trade shows, with more than 150,000 attendees and upwards of 3,000 exhibitors, from automakers to appliance manufacturers to software designers and more.   In fact, CES is so big that it offers an FAQ for first-timers and a digital planner app to help attendees keep track of the seminars and exhibits they wish to visit. 

No matter your beat, from marketing to transportation to retail to personal finance, there’s bound to be an aspect of CES that relates; peruse the conference schedule for ideas and earmark speakers who might be viable prospective sources for 2013 busines stories beyond the gadget show.   The searchable exhibitor directory can help you find local companies attending the show, which might in turn suggest new small- or medium-sized business profiles.  (Use the advance search function to narrow results to your state.) 

Other press resources include an array of social media,  a news feed, CES TVand other interactive tools, so even if you can’t jet to Vegas you can add color and immediacy to any coverage you do of regional companies attending or presenting at the show, or of live events featuring business leaders and celebrities. 

Of course, a round-up for consumers of new products and services is always a fun aspect of CES.  Or, you can approach the show from the perspective of technological advances in the industries you cover.  Here’s an InformationWeek piece, for example, about “10 CES Trends that Matter to Business”   from healthcare applications to small-business computing.  And here’s a 2012 Entrepreneur article that looked at CES angles affecting small businesses.  You can use the timing of the show as a platform to ask area companies about new technology that’s helping their business grow, and the impact on employment, profit margins, quality control, competitive abilities and other metrics. 

CNET special coverage of CES 2013

CNET staff test out their CES 2013 stage.

Another angle is that of what happens to discarded or obsolete technology.  E-waste is a hot topic in the industry, with at least one panel session scheduled at CES, and hot on the heels of the holiday gift season, the question of what happens to unwanted electronics  is a serious environmental issue and a business opportunity as well.  Forbes reports that the average household boasts 24 gadgets, and that we are sending 416,000 mobile devices to the landfills every day!! 

Controversially, some e-waste is being sent overseas; it’s also providing fodder for start-ups like Green Citizen. Check with your county’s solid waste department, state commerce department, business incubators and the area’s economic development arm about any e-waste recycling entrepreneurs or start-ups in your area; the trade group Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries also may point you to local firms handling e-waste. 

The secondary market for used mobile devices also has interesting small business potential; I see some storefront signs touting “We buy used cell phones” and wonder what the pros and cons are for buyers and sellers — and of course, there’s a huge online market as well.  A primer for consumers on how to prep phones and tablets for sale — protecting personal information — might make a good sidebar. 

About the Author

Veteran financial writer Melissa Preddy served as a business writer, editor and columnist for The Detroit News from 1995 to 2008, is a Michigan-based freelance journalist. She now works as a writer and editor for a medical research unit of the University of Michigan Medical School. Follow her daily posts. | E-mail: Melissa Preddy

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