Brian Fuller's blog on the media, marketing and content creation

Should More Semiconductor, EDA Startups Look to Kickstarter?

Posted on | September 16, 2013 | 2 Comments

Unless you've been trekking in the Himalayas the past
decade, you've noticed a big change in the nature of semiconductor and EDA startups. (And if you have been out wandering, welcome back! There's some cool new mobile technology you're going to want to know about).

Semiconductor and EDA startup companies are being funded differently, and, in a
lot of cases, for a lot less than back in the day.

Venture investment in semiconductor startups, for example,
is roughly half what it was in 2002. That's usually the mark of a maturing
industry, yet ours not only matures but the technology gets more complex every year. That creates an unusual tension: Startups are developing amazing new technologies and need funding to do it, but just what level of funding? 

Semiconductor Startup Malaise

Cadence CEO and longtime venture capitalist Lip-Bu Tan is by
his own description
"doubling
and tripling down"
on his own semiconductor investments. That's great but he's
the exception rather than the rule
.

That said, semiconductors and EDA startups are nothing if not adaptive.

The industry has spent the past decade giving itself an
expectations haircut. On top of that, new forums for investment have sprung up
in just the past several years that fund more than just music and
movie creation.

Some recent highlights:

So there's momentum building for crowd-sourcing some
technologies. But the news is not as rosy as Kickstarter or its fans would have
you believe.

Project Fail

Independent analysis suggests that more than 40%
of Kickstarter projects fail
to achieve their funding level, although
investors overwhelmingly tend to back the right horses (see the related info
graphic below
) with their overall dollars.

On top of that, technology projects rank second-worst in
terms of success on Kickstarter, with just 39 percent achieving goal. What
works? Dance and theater projects (liberal arts majors, rejoice!!).

Dance, by the way, had the fewest number of projects (758)
submitted for the period covered in the infographic, followed closedly by
technology (806). Dance projects sought an average of $2,374 each, while
technologists were asking for $12,282, which may have contributed to
technology's high failure rate. (Then again, the average film and video project brought in $40,000).

All that said, crowd-funding is here to stay. Kickstarter reports that 2.2
million people contributed $319 million last year, funding more than 18,000
projects.

kickstarter technology projects

And right now, you'd be wise to jump on the Arduino-Raspberry Pi-Android and wireless bandwagons if you're looking to fund a project, at least according
to the visualization (right) of the successfully funded technology projects on
Kickstarter today.

Co-existence?

The larger question is not whether crowd-funded and
venture-funded projects will co-exist but in what proportion?

Right now the technology projects skew toward the easy,
understandable and consumer-friendly, but as people get savvier, conceivably
smaller investors could be investing money into new and interesting
semiconductor and EDA strategies (a la Andreas Olofsson and Adapteva).

What do you think?

Brian Fuller

Related stories:

Interview
with Lip-bu Tan, Part 2: Energizing the Electronics Industry

Cadence
CEO at DAC 2013: 'I've Doubled, Tripled Down on Semiconductor Investment'

 

Kickstarter failure stats

via Cadence The Fuller View Blogs http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/cadence/community/blogs/fullerview/~3/1rPfq6p3uVY/semiconductor-eda-startups-look-to-kickstarter.aspx

‘The Scarecrow’ ad: An epic, cynical story?

Posted on | September 16, 2013 | 4 Comments

Gawker calls it “amazing.” Others call it haunting. It’s the Chipotle ‘Scarecrow’ ad (4.5 million people have viewed it and searches for “The Scarecrow” are trending big time). Take a listen and then read on:

‘The Scarecrow’ is beautifully done, a little long, but compelling. But what strikes me is the underlying cynicism of a national and wildly growing food chain trying to capture the moral high ground on “fresh” food. It becomes harder the bigger you get. But that’s just me.

So what do you think? (Especially, Lou Hoffman, who writes early and often on storytelling, and my friend John Walsh, who is another eloquent ad man and writer). Does this strain Chipotle’s credibility? (Note that this Chipotle local-farming landing page apparently hasn’t been updated in three years).

 

 

What’s EE Times’ Future Now? (And What’s Ours?)

Posted on | September 6, 2013 | 14 Comments

By now, you’ve probably heard: Two cornerstone editors are leaving EE Times. Peter Clarke (London) and Dylan McGrath (San Francisco) are headed off to different pastures to ply their trade, McGrath to IHS and Peter to parts unknown.

Those two guys represent half the core staff of EE Times, with Junko Yoshida and Rick Merritt remaining on board (at least for now). Since January, Times has also has lost Sylvie Barak, George Leopold, Alex Wolfe and Nic Mokhoff. I don’t count myself because I was running EBN when I decided to leave. IMG_7865

These moves raise two important questions:

  • Does it matter?
  • What’s the future of EE Times?

An editor’s relevancy

The first question is probably more directly phrased “Do editors matter any more?” From the standpoint of UBM and CEO Paul Miller, I think the answer is “sure but in a different way.” Editors-as-gatekeepers and interpreters of marketing fodder? No. Editors as community leaders? Absolutely.

UBM gets a lot of grief for what’s gone down in the last decade, especially in electronics. There,  we began overhauling how we do business 13 years ago, showered as we were in the radioactive rain of dot-com bomb.

The company’s hand was forced by industry spending trends (own-website investment at first and later by starvation-ration marketing budgets). Paul & Co. reacted in ways that at first cemented the company’s go-to spot for electronics readers and marketers. Everyone else at first poo-poohed the digital transformation; UBM got out front.

Today, the state of affairs is even tougher, and the body language out of UBM’s London HQ is that media is radioactive. That’s business: If it ain’t growing, it’s time to consider Plan B.

Today, electronics companies are picking up the editorial diaspora and slotting them into content-creation and content-marketing roles with success. So companies control more of the story-telling and messaging. These companies are getting a completely new marketing capability in house, and it’s just beginning to take root.

But there’s a sense of unhappiness in our ranks. We can crank out that content all day long, but if there’s no one to validate it or call B.S., then we become an industry of echo chambers.

That serves no one. We’re missing a vital voice in the conversation.

What’s the future of EE Times?

And that’s why publications like EE Times matter. Still. But the shift this year of nearly all UBM publications to the Deus M platform and model fundamentally changes the relationship with the reader. The platform itself is great for sponsors (at the moment): It’s a very effective way to create content, drive conversation and deliver metrics and leads to advertisers. For editors, it’s as healthy as a pit bull is around a toddler.

Sure, you can recruit new editors (well maybe not in electronics), but the community approach will last only as long as advertisers don’t get distracted by some new shiny digital marketing object. And there will be a shiny new object, I guarantee you.

In the community model, an editor shepherds a flock of contributors, each telling a piece of the story. But most of those contributors are paid to do something else. Just a small fraction of editors today put food on their table trying to understand how technology and the industry is changing and then communicating that the engineering audience in the old, quaint “objective” observer model.

A number of smaller publications are emerging to fill the vacuum but they don’t yet have the audience, the momentum or, more worryingly, the brand and trust in engineers’ eyes.

What matters anymore?

Meanwhile, publications likes Times and EDN (the latter really strong since its excellent redesign) still have the biggest website numbers in the business.

But for how long? For how long with guys like Clarke and McGrath leaving? For how long with a content mix that leans on endless “top 10 whatever” stories and page-view pimping slideshows? Miller should sell the electronics group so it can have focus outside a huge organization like UBM–we had this conversation as I was leaving. It would be quite profitable. But he’s not in a position to do that right now.

That’s life but it’s too bad, because as currently constituted, EE Times is telling us less and less about what’s going on in the industry, what connected dots are going to influence how we design circuits, boards and embedded systems next year. (Junko and Rick can only break so much news every day before they keel over from exhaustion).

The community model–the conversation model–is, right now, the brand’s IV drip, a way to keep its heart beating within a bony chest. But the model only really encourages conversation among people on the site (it’s supposed to). But it doesn’t really encourage conversation within the industry, where it matters. We don’t gather around the office coffee station any more and marvel at what EE Times reported.

There’s no blame to assign; we’re all involved here. It just is. It’s the evolution of a business. The editorial diaspora is already revolutionizing electronics marketing and communications, but that’s just one answer to our challenges.

We’re realizing we need back that town square we just bulldozed and we need vibrant publications to tell an industry story consistently, to nurture debates and arbitrate them; to be an extra set of eyes and ears for the engineer; and, yes, to call B.S. on our own carefully crafted product and technology stories–or to validate them.

I’m not just talking to myself. Gary Smith is writing about it as is Dan Nenni at SemiWiki. And of course Lou Covey is always hovering and hectoring and rightly so. Gary was so concerned about the state of affairs he called and said we needed to foment a revolution and lunch in the Valley was a good place to start. He and Lori-Kate and I ate well, laughed a lot and came away with no brilliant ideas.

What are yours?

 

 

Journalism jobs decline but #journalism itself?

Posted on | August 13, 2013 | No Comments

Journalism jobs are hard to come by these days, two decades into the collapse of advertising-based journalism model. That shouldn’t come as a big surprise.

Look at the journalism jobs trend infographic below and you’ll get a clearer picture. But I quibble with the mainstream hang-wringing over the decline of journalism jobs, and I especially have a problem with the infographic’s title. Traditional journalism isn’t dead; it’s alive and well and being taught in universities across America. Kids are filling lecture halls and roaming the streets doing undergrad projects even though their journalism parents sometimes shake their heads (yes, that would be me).

Journalism jobs, journalism evolution

What’s dead are traditional journalism jobs. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Journalism, like any other technology-driven business, evolves. Is there a newspaper typographer anywhere in America today taking home a paycheck? Didn’t think so.

The product of journalism–newspapers and magazines–once was produced by a lot of highly-specialized people because the amount of time needed to master each technology or craft was significant. Today technology has flattened the learning curve and helped consolidate once-specialized functions.

Who’s a journalist?

Steven Greenhut, writing in Reason, said:

“Newspapers and other large media organizations often publish good journalism, but they often publish bad journalism also. … We’re just as likely – sometimes more likely, based on recent events – to see great journalism practiced by nonprofessionals or by professionals who work for small or independent media as by those working for the major national media.”

We can moan about the good old days, but it’s just moaning. Let’s move on.

Traditional journalism transcends the technology: it’s a way to tell compelling stories, sourced properly, that inspire and inform. It’s happening in the remaining traditional outlets; it’s happening in new media; it’s happening in social media.

It’s happening.

Journalism jobs struggle with decline of traditional journalism outlets

Content marketing’s tipping point in the cloud

Posted on | July 21, 2013 | No Comments

Interest in content marketing is exploding today, and it represents a new paradigm in marketing communications and new potential to create more agile communications strategies.

Most companies don’t do content marketing well or at all, but that doesn’t mean they won’t. In fact they will do content marketing on a huge scale, but not because they’ve been carpet-bombed on social networks for years by content marketing purveyors. Content marketing programs are expanding because of increased marketing spend on technology

The content marketing tipping point is here because the fundamental economics of computing have changed in the last decade, and the effect of that is trickling down into organizations. That trickle-down has prompted a pitched battle between IT–which spent the last two decades throwing its weight around because of the big budgets it enjoyed–and marketing, which spent those two decades kow-towing to IT to get anything done. That relationship has changed almost overnight.

Content marketing’s tech boost 

Brad McCredie, CTO of IBM’s systems division, gave some insight on how that battle is playing out during a recent talk at the Design Automation Conference in Austin (here’s a link to the more technical aspects of his talk). What’s happened in the past decade is that a few companies have massively disrupted certain business segments. In the process, those companies collectively have created a new computing paradigm.

Apple, Google and Amazon disrupted music, advertising and retail, as you know, but to do so they needed to lay out massive amounts of relatively inexpensive and scalable compute and networking power in server farms. That begat the cloud. (It’s worked so effectively from the build out standpoint that Amazon has cut cloud computing prices 28 times since it began offering the service, according to a Cadence colleague of mine, John Olson). Add in some open-source software and its impact on app development, and suddenly power slips like sand from IT’s hands.

Power grab

“There is an end run around IT executives in the race to the cloud,” McCredie said during his talk. “This is a very strong force in the industry.”

The research firm Gartner reports that by 2017, CMOs will spend more on IT than CIOs (related infographic is embedded below).

“I have to get directly into the data and get it back fast,” McCredie said. “Much more speed and is agility required.

So marketing has awakened to how ubiquitous compute power is changing its business; it’s there for the taking to gain agility and advantage and drive content marketing campaigns. The tools are now in your hands to sweep up terabytes of big data and make sense of it to better know and communicate to your audiences.

These are better days, heady days if you’re in a big company.

Publishing impact

If you’re not a big company or you’re in publishing, it’s a more frustrating tipping point. Publishers–at least ones with a clue–spent the 2000s trying to build the first vestiges of a content-marketing solution set for companies. Bigger companies bought them because they could. Smaller companies didn’t have the budget.

Now the big companies, which typically are the 80 percent of a publisher’s revenues, are taking chunks of their budget and spending it internally to do their own content creation and content marketing. Because they can.

The companies that don’t have those budgets are looking to publishers for affordable solutions, and most publishers haven’t figured out a solution set they can build cost effectively that scales profitably to those smaller-budget customers. The community model is the current flavor of the month–done effectively by companies like UBM Tech–but that’s just one piece of the puzzle.

And if you’re a PR agency? Well, that’s a topic for whole different post.

  • What do you think?
  • Who’s doing it right?
  • Where’s the potential for existing business to exploit the content-marketing trend and its upside?

 

content marketing is expanding because marketing is spending more than IT departments on technology

Going down the road

Posted on | May 30, 2013 | No Comments

Yeah, moving on again.

If you’re read Bob Jones’ post at Publitek, Lou Covey’s, or caught a few social-media updates in the past few weeks, you’re hip to the news that I left UBM Tech and the EBN editor-in-chief role for the role of editor-in-chief at Cadence, the EDA giant. photo

Again?

Yep. Five years ago I went from the editor-in-chief role at EE Times to Blanc & Otus to run social media and content creation. Then, it turned out to be a place and time that wasn’t ready for content creation.

But what’s happened in the past five years has accelerated the trend of companies getting on the content-creation bandwagon (what’s now called “content marketing”). Cadence is a billion-dollar company that’s down the road a bit on its own content-creation strategy, pioneered by my colleague Richard Goering (who also left UBM at the same time in 2007) and Steve Leibson, ex-EDN EIC, now at Xilinx as director of strategic marketing.

Shifting landscape

Today, too, we see a different publishing landscape. UBM Tech reorganized in April and pushed its chips squarely into the section of the table labeled “events and community.” Paul Miller has been moving the company in that direction for many years now. He does it not because he wants to but because he has to. Publishing companies that have not evolved rapidly in the past 5-10 years have died or simply stagnated (if they were lucky).

Some bemoan the fact that Miller killed print. Steve Weitzner killed print at Ziff-Davis Enterprise years ago. The fact of the matter is, advertisers have walked away from print for years. For a few years, that was a tragedy because readers didn’t. They stayed. They loved it. They were loyal. But they were a passing generation.

Even today, at a marketing event in Phoenix I attended, there were people talking about trying to find viable print outlets for their stories.

Really?

You want THAT audience? You want zero measurable ROI? I’d double-check the wall calendar if I were you.

Change management

Humans don’t do change well. Those who anticipate it usually find themselves a little too far ahead of the adoption curve and that has its own problems. Many refuse to come to grips with it until it’s too late.

I got into journalism a long time ago because I could write, and write a lot. I soon found out I loved talking to people and teasing information from them they might not ordinarily surrender…the stuff that makes up great stories. And journalism, even with all its warts, was a noble pursuit.

Today is not then. None of us should aspire to be harness makers and leather tanners with facilities down the road from the Henry Ford’s first factory.

This applies not only to journalists but to communications professionals, marketers and sales people. All these jobs are changing radically before your eyes.

The art and craft of story telling

Posted on | April 11, 2013 | No Comments

Lou Hoffman is a huge story-telling bigot, and he writes often and insightfully on the blog Ishmael’s Corner. We’re the better for it because Lou teaches old schoolers about how to adapt story-telling to digital technologies today.

Marry the message to the medium and the medium to the audience. It’s pretty straight forward.

My son is studying journalism in college (I know, I know: I tried to talk him out of it!). If all goes well, he will be a part of the next generation of story-tellers, molding and shaping how we communicate as the digital age matures.

It’s going to be amazing to watch how we tell stories 10 years from now. Or maybe it won’t be much different at all?

What do you think?

Here’s a neat little story he told for a class assignment in multimedia form. He does something a lot of contemporary story tellers today (regardless of medium) don’t do, which is stay the hell out of the way of the subject.

Journalism Jobs: The Digital Sweatshop

Posted on | April 5, 2013 | No Comments

For those looking for journalism jobs, consider this from David Rohde, writing for Reuters, on the passing of New York Times columnist Anthony Lewis and the need for inspirational journalism:

The long-awaited surge in digital revenues for news organizations appears unlikely to materialize, particularly for newspapers. Since 2003, total newspaper print ad revenues have fallen from $45 billion to $19 billion. At the same time, online ads grew from $1.2 to $3.3 billion.

Given the comparatively small amount of revenue being produced by news websites, there is a danger of them becoming digital sweatshops. Young journalists will be expected to simultaneously write their own pieces, edit others’ work, make complex news judgments and update web pages.

Twelve posts a day is unfair to young journalists and a business model that is unlikely to produce the next Lewis. Even a young Lewis, I suspect, would have struggled to produce a dozen meaningful posts a day.

My only quibble with this story is that the industry is not at risk of becoming a sweatshop. It is a sweatshop already for journalism jobs.

Crowdsourcing long-form journalism

Posted on | April 1, 2013 | No Comments

This is cool (via Joshua Gillin at Poynter):

The Big Roundtable, which is more than halfway to its startup goal of $5,000only two days into its campaign, promises to provide digital distribution to story pitches that can’t find outlets via traditional print publishers. The project plans to provide 1,000-word excerpts to a committee of readers, which will then read the story and decide if it’s worthy of being distributed via email. The stories will be sent to another group of readers, repeating the process to determine if it’s a successful selection. The story will then be sold to readers for $1 a copy.

We’re staggering toward solutions. That’s the good news.

(Read the rest of the piece at Poynter).

Reading on mobile devices grows

Posted on | March 31, 2013 | No Comments

No surprise, perhaps, but we’re reading more on our mobile devices.

Ken Hess, writing on ZDNet, actually has a clever name for devices we use primarily to get information (as opposed to play games or talk):

I’ll dub it The Infoslab: A decision device. Where you get headlines, stock reports, messages and all of your valuable information in one place.

But perhaps what’s surprising, illuminated by this infographic below, is the modest adoption rates of tablet devices, which in turn cultivate modest rates of content consumption on such devices.

 

It’s early days to some degree. Would love to see a comparison of the adoption ramp between PCs back in the day and tablets today.

 

 

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