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

Distributed computing’s new frontier: wearables

Posted on | August 18, 2017 | No Comments

If you want to see the latest wearables, head to your local electronics or sporting goods store. But if you want to see the latest wearables that are leveraging machine learning at the edge, say hello to Monisha Perkash, Andrew Chang and their colleagues.

Perkash and Chang co-founded Lumo Bodytech, a six-year-old, 30-person Internet of Things (IoT) startup that is not only shaking up the wearables market but pushing the boundaries of distributed intelligence with their designs.

“There is data that works well in the cloud, brute-force computing on macro-level statistics of users and behaviors,” Chang says. “But there are opportunities in the short term because a lot of our products provide real-time feedback using machine learning.”

Lumo Body Tech Lumo Run demo

No one argues the power of the cloud and how it’s transformed application and system design. But as devices get smaller, more powerful and more power efficient, designers are looking to take advantage of those advances at the edge for performance gains and privacy improvements.

 

There’s data and then there’s actionable data

To understand Lumo Bodytech’s technical approach, you first need an appreciation for the vision behind the company, because that filters all the way down to device design.

“Companies are waking up and realizing they need an IoT strategy. They need to be digital to capture data about their customers and have a more intimate relationship with their customers, develop to their needs better, offer more personalized solutions,” Perkash says.

But data, in and of itself, is meaningless, she adds.

“We’re all drowning in data. What matters is how that data gets turned into actionable feedback that customers find valuable for themselves and their end-users,” she says.

Because the IoT sector is bursting at the seams with competition, companies like Lumo are finding innovative ways to compete—ways that aren’t just about technology.

In Lumo’s case, it’s a three-pronged approach. The company has leveraged Arm-powered technology and integrated SoC design techniques to deliver to the marketplace the Lumo Lift and Lumo Run wearable devices.

The Lumo Lift emerged as a classic “necessity is the mother of invention” situation: Chang was experiencing back problems and Perkash suggested posture classes as one way to help resolve the problem.  When Andrew took her advice and his back pain decreased significantly, they had their first big “aha moment,” realizing that offering an easy-to-use posture feedback solution at an accessible price point could help improve the lives of millions of people who also suffer from back pain.

So they conceived the idea of a wearable device that would monitor a person’s posture, and help that person learn proper posture by sending vibrational feedback from the device whenever things got out of whack. After successfully launching the Lumo Lift, they then expanded their platform to also support the Lumo Run, which is a clip-on wearable that measures and monitors things such as a runner’s cadence, stride, pelvic rotation, drop and bounce to optimize running performance.

“There is so much we don’t know about ourselves and our bodies,” Perkash says. “With the proliferation of connected wearable solutions, we’re starting to get clues.”

There’s clearly a demand for information. Earlier this year, BCC Research reported that the global market for self-monitoring technologies will exceed $20.7 billion this year and triple in size in the next five years.

“It’s getting more exciting as these technologies become more interoperable. They’re starting to create a more holistic picture of people through personalized feedback. That’s the power of IoT,” Perkash said.

 

Opening the platform

That’s one prong of Lumo’s strategy. But another out-of-the-box part of the company’s strategy has been—as of January 2017—to license its platform to companies to allow them to develop their own technologies. This came on the back of the success of the consumer devices.

“We’ve had a lot of inbound interest from large brands,” she says. “They’re keen to leverage the power of IoT technologies, but often creating tech-enabled products and incorporating IoT is not within their core competence.”

The Lumo Motion Science Platform is a wisdom-of-crowds approach that allows companies to drive Lumo technology into areas such as clothing, elder care, jewelry and more applications.

They’ve signed with PUMA to introduce a new product powered by Lumo’s AI MotionScience Platform  and are negotiating with others Perkash says.

The third prong of the company’s value strategy is to turn the crank on distributed intelligence, to put more computing closer to the edge to yield more actionable data faster. This is a near-term Holy Grail for technology companies grappling with data-management issues on the back end and security and privacy concerns on the front end.

 

Small, powerful and always learning

Sensors inside the Lift and Run self-calibrate as you use them to personalize the experience and normalize to the individual.

Lumo engineers designed in an Arm Cortex-M4 Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) SoC using 512kB flash and 64kB of RAM. Chang said that footprint was a consideration in the technology selection, but the biggest driver behind the selection was the operating, BLE and standby power consumption numbers.

“It’s different for each person,” Chang says. “We have to predict the best posture for each user. We have to be constantly adapting to the user and once the device is on and calibrated we have to auto calibrate because wearables move around so much during the day and we have to control for that.”

This is a glimpse at the future of IoT systems and wearables device design that’s just starting to come into focus at companies like Lumo.

What else does the near-term future hold? Lots, according to Perkash and Chang.

Chang likes to say the body is innovation’s next frontier. His wish list includes more-integrated SoC with more sensors fusing more data together faster.

Asked what he’d like to see from the ecosystem to push IoT and wearables to a new plane, Chang responds almost before the question is finished: Wireless charging.

“We view charging as an impediment to what we do. We want a wireless future, free of having to charge anything … we’re so close,” he says, emphasizing the words like he’s pinching two fingers together. “That’s when we’ll see IoT really take off.”

  

 

 

Little Red Riding Hood’s Grandmother

Posted on | February 6, 2017 | No Comments

My grandmother lived 10 minutes from us over a hill and through the woods, hard by a little creek in a house as small and ancient as she. Why we lived that close became a mystery to me, at least when I got older and the obscure corners of life started to unfurl themselves before me. My old man wasn’t a big fan of her. My mother would share stories about her mother giving birth at 17 and then slipping out the window in the Prohibition ‘20s to drink in the night life and leave the baby to her in-laws.  

But when we were kids, it was a treat to make that trip.

Grandparents are delightful because they’re grandparents; they’re not fathers or mothers to you; nor are they brothers or sisters or cousins. Grandparents sit at a comfortable remove in the relationship game, with faint smiles that suggest they realize they have inherited a power they never had earlier in lives.

Grammar was fantastic and funny and made a killer leg of lamb in the spring. She’d cook it for 8 hours, which, I later figured out, was the precise length of a bottle of vodka.

She cackle-laughed and often; a lifetime of smoking made her sound like a needle skritching across a worn 78. Cackle cackle cackle. Cough cough cough.

She waved to cars passing on the main street in front of her house and kept an immaculate English-style garden tucked under the towering redwoods. She had a small flower garden planted in an oval hole in the middle of a tiny lawn, whose edges were as tightly trimmed as a Marine’s head.

Locals called her house Little Red Riding Hood’s Grandmother’s Cottage, which infuriated me. Even as a kid, I thought that was the laziest goddamn nickname I’d ever heard; can’t people spend some time punching up something more clever and quick? Seriously.

She was that “sweet little old woman in the red cottage.” If they only knew. Inside, around cocktail hour, she’d tell stories and jokes. My favorite:

A woman in the grocery store checkout line is ogling a handsome young bag boy. He says “would you like me to carry your bags to your car?”

“That would be delightful,” she replies.

As they walk toward the parking lot, she admires him some more and says “You know I have an itchy pussy.”

To which the young man replies, “You’ll have to point it out to me, ma’am. I don’t know one Japanese car from the next.”

Cackle cackle cackle. Cough cough cough.

I think I was 12 when she first told me that joke. I wasn’t even sure what pussy was, but I knew she wasn’t talking about a cat.

She had books in her library detailing different names for breasts (“Headlights. Hooters” Those were just in the Hs). Penis-joke books. She had a worn corkscrew shaped like a little man whose penis was? Yep. that’s right. It was the first time I realized that adults had real humor.

Cackle cackle cackle. Cough cough cough.

She was married three times. The first, to my biological grandfather, was shot gun. Fresh out of an Oregon convent and living with family in Oakland, she obviously had a wild-child night and she took home a souvenir. That marital bliss or whatever they called it lasted a few years. Then there was the second guy (I can’t even picture him, and I never learned the reasons for their connection). He died in a car crash not long after the vows.

The third, made legit sometime in the 1930s, took root and stayed until death did they part. But Stan’s story is for another time.

(To be continued)

 

Posted on | March 1, 2016 | No Comments

Milky Way from an Norikura Observatory in Mt. Marishiten-dake, Japan – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

Gary

Posted on | July 26, 2015 | 2 Comments

It puzzled me that he never emerged from behind the curtain to stride across the stage with his ceaseless smile and glimmering eyes to address us again. I really expected it. But he didn’t. Still, Gary Smith’s spirit pervaded that San Jose room on that Sunday where the industry, family and friends (many of whom were all three in one) gathered to remember the wonderful industry analyst, engineer and man (pictures below).Jim Hogan at Gary Smith's Memorial
I drove up, wearing a suit with a tie at the ready, but I noticed guests walking in without ties. Without suitcoats. Hmmmm…. Turns out, we were all told to wear orange, which was Gary’s signature color. Cooley wrote about it, but I missed that. I mean who reads Cooley any more?? (John, please…I kid.)

In any case, I walked in with orange-soled shoes, my ticket apparently.

Packed house. What a set-up. A beautifully appointed room in the Doubletree with fountains of flowers and pictures of Gary and a warm hum. There was an outstanding food spread and big urns of hot coffee and flowing, friendly chatter. It wasn’t the type of conversation you usually hear at these things–murmuring, look-over-your-shoulder skittish. It was positive, pleasant. There was laughter. There was Michelle Clancy of Cayenne Communications, who pulled this together in a matter of days. From the East Coast (with West Coast help from Jill Jacob, Paul Cohen, Bob Gardner). In a matter of just days. Cool, calm and collected, she was. (Michelle, please … I kid).

It was a who’s who of the EDA industry. There was the Cadence crew. The Synopsys Crew. Anne Cirkel from Mentor. Tom Anderson from Breker. The EDAC crowd. The ARM crew. Kathryn and Kevin back from Turkey and a wedding. Wally cabled over a nice note, and Aart popped in in person. My media buddies represented: Richard, Rick, Dave, Lou, Peggy. Sean O’Kane, Steve Alvin and Roger Stoneburner manning the video and audio.

Sean was the perfect choice to nurture the vibe as emcee, his looming figure, stage presence … that comic timing ringing out rim shots. He unwound an astonishing, touching, funny, insightful eulogy that he wrote himself. He quoted Thornton Wilder. Yes, the Irishman with the basketball knees and bum back carried Thornton Wilder to the stage: “Choose the least important day in your life. It will be important enough.” Sean, who knew? (Sean, please… I kid).

And then there was Hogan (there ain’t but one). He was funny and he was moved and he lost some words but found some more and he laid down an oral riff on a Gary Smith that was near and dear to big Jim’s thumping rock-and-roll heart … a Gary Smith that called B.S. on Hogan’s technology pitches over the years but honored the right stuff at the right time when it was right to do so… a Gary Smith whose passing leaves a strange quiet in our world, a unfamiliar hush we won’t soon understand or accept. As if to fill that void, Hogan and Grant Pierce rocked out some blues on stage, honoring Gary’s bass-plucking, band-gigging hobby, those great DAC parties and industry collegiality.

Lori Kate spoke. Man that took something. I wouldn’t have done it. Most of the room wouldn’t have done that under similar circumstances. She did and she rocked it with that sunshine smile of hers. And it made me think about how powerful a bond those two had for the past couple of decades, and it made me recall Gary’s sweet recollection at the 50th DAC in Austin:

In the end, it was unlike any memorial I’ve ever been to. I tasted that lingering sadness that I’ll never get to break bread with the man, get his insights (which sewed up so many articles over the years for me, for Goering, for others), his bad jokes and his bon homie.

I had to surrender that day, let it sit alone for a while before writing about it, before wondering again why he never emerged. And now I’m pretty sure that Gary, as always, had things to do, people to see, places to go and jokes to tell. And he’s off doing that with that big ole smile and big ole heart of his.

Postscript:

The Gary Smith Memorial Scholarship will be awarded to one undergraduate student annually participating in San José State University’s Guardian Scholars Program.  A vital program for Silicon Valley’s public university, Guardian Scholars serves youth emancipated from foster care, Wards of the Court, and certified homeless individuals who are highly self-motivated to complete their college education at SJSU.  Students planning careers in the tech and/or EDA industries are strongly encouraged to apply.  In addition, DAC will enable the Gary Smith Memorial Scholarship students to attend our flagship industry event.

You have the option of making your gift online. And as you are making your online gift, in the Purpose section, be sure to note that your gift is for the “SJSU GARY SMITH MEMORIAL SCHOLARSHIP”

More information is available here.

 

Kathryn and Kevin Kranen

Kathryn and Kevin

Mac McNamara offers his thoughts on Gary for a family video memorial.

Kathryn Kranen on Gary’s mentoring and authenticity as the peanut gallery looks on.

Brian Fuller with Richard Goering

Richard Goering (right) and some guy he once worked with.

Richard Goering and Sabina Burns

Goering and Sabina Burns.

Sean O'Kane and Brian Fuller

Sean O’Kane, focused, a man on a emceeing mission.

Industry Gadfly John Cooley

Cooley and his pants, photobombed!

Michelle (left) and Lori Kate share a laugh.

Anna

Posted on | January 5, 2015 | 2 Comments

I’ll never forget when I first heard about her.

I was in my EE Times San Mateo office overlooking the bay when our semiconductor reporter, Anthony Cataldo, walked in.

“How was Altera?” I asked.

“They have a new PR woman,” he replied.

I thought “Yeah, so? How did your interview go?” but Cataldo didn’t break stride:

“She kissed me. European-style. On both cheeks. You know, kiss-kiss. And she’s gorgeous.”

WTF, I thought. That’s different. Especially in the electronics industry.

“Damn,” I said. “What’s her name?”

“Anna,” he said, “and she’s different. Really different. You gotta meet her. She’ll kiss you too. Don’t worry. I think she kisses everybody.”

And that was my introduction to Anna del Rosario, a St. Elmo’s Fire of a woman who sparkled onto the electronics publicity scene two decades ago. She passed away today, too young, too quickly and too sadly after a long illness.

She leaves a hole in our hearts and one in our industry big enough to sail a cargo ship through. There was no other and no one to confuse her with. It seemed to take no more than a couple of days for her to stake her claim in the semiconductor world as the new voice in PR. She was conversational, smart, savvy, forward and opinionated, luminous—and boy did she have style. Pretty soon all you had to say was “Anna,” and everybody knew whom you were talking about.

She called almost immediately after Cataldo’s visit and invited me to lunch at some swanky eatery in the Valley—“you’ll have wine with lunch of course, won’t you? Do you like Rioja?” After lunch, I felt as if I’d been pulled out to sea on some immense, warm rushing tide. I was swimming in unfamiliar waters. At our next meeting, I got my first kiss-kiss.

Anna del Rosario hosting a media session with Cadence CEO Lip-Bu Tan in the spring of 2014.

Anna del Rosario hosting a media session with Cadence CEO Lip-Bu Tan in the spring of 2014.

Fresh air, welcomed

When she started at Altera, the company already was a marketing juggernaut in the FPGA space, fighting a Homeric battle against rival Xilinx for market dominance. They went at each other the way dogs go after cats. But somehow, she turned up the volume to 11. As graceful as a prima ballerina, she insinuated herself and Altera into everyone’s heads in the electronics media, and the next few years were good copy in FPGA land.

She knew when Xilinx was holding a press conference or had pre-briefed the media and my phone would spark to life with her number on the readout. She would try to charm out of us any intelligence she could get so her team could mobilize and respond with some type of communications FUD. No matter how many times we rebuffed her, she kept coming back. Sometimes she got what she was looking for. (How could she not?)

She was a master at dropping the choice rumor. We chased them down and sometimes there was fire near that smoke. And she never hesitated to let me know she was in hot water with one boss or the other because we either buried a story involving Altera (and later Actel) or thought should be on page 1 or left one of her companies out of larger story. But she did it in a way that wasn’t confrontational and that almost made me feel bad about whatever it was we were supposed to have done!

Stuff like that

Pretty soon, we became friends. We’d have dinner and more than one glass of wine and share stories about our then-teenage kids, our frustrations, our joys and the peccadilloes of editors and engineers alike. She knew every editor in the industry and every editor’s foibles. And the stories she told about engineers on trade-show road trips would make a really funny book. There was never a boring dinner with Anna; there was never a subsequent morning that my temples didn’t throb.

I once told her that I needed to start writing longer form stories and for different audiences—somehow—amid my day job. She told me about a friend of hers, Bruce Henderson, whom she met while she was at Oracle. He was doing exactly what I wanted to do: become a full-time and prolific author. Soon came an invite to a dinner at her place for me, my writing wife Heidi, Jocelyn King (then at National Semiconductor), and for Bruce. Anna had it catered. It was a 19th century writing salon and contemporary gourmet restaurant all bundled into her beautifully designed home.

The extraordinary thing about it was the hostess stayed very much out of the conversation, never feeling the need to guide it or dominate. She let these people simply converse and get to know each other and build relationships. She refused to get in the way. It was one of the most remarkable evenings I can remember. She later took me to one of Bruce’s book signings in Menlo Park and we had dinner with him and his wife afterward.

She did stuff like that for people.

In the mid-2000s, I began to talk and blog about “vendor-as-publisher” strategies, since the rise of the Internet gave electronics companies the ability to talk directly to their audiences and bypass media like EE Times. We’d talk about it over lunch.

Persistence pays

This conversation went on for years long before the term content marketing came into vogue. In December of 2012 we had lunch (and wine) in San Francisco and she said “you need to walk the talk, my friend. I want to hire you.” I declined then. But four or five months later, she badgered me to come down to Cadence for lunch and listen to her pitch again. “C’mon at least we’ll get a chance to catch up.”

Well, it was a warm spring day in San Jose; outside the Cadence cafeteria an employee basketball tournament was in full swing, the smell of blossoms was in the air, people thronged to patio seating, barbecues were cooking up ribs and other meats, and the energy was amazing. The only thing missing was a white-sand beach and mermaids.

She wore me down. A month or two later, I joined an amazing team in communications that she pretty much assembled herself. Amazing people I’d known for decades; amazing people I’ve come to love and admire. Our staff meetings were raucous (she called them “HR-free zones”) and often were highlighted by sidebars on women’s high heels, pop culture and the eating, grooming and drinking habits of various industry editors. To this day, I suspect she orchestrated that entire lunch spectacle (weather included!) to seal the deal.

She knew people. She managed up like no one I’ve ever seen. Countless Valley executives must have muttered the phrase “oh God, what did I do now” when she strode into their offices. She would call them out on everything from how they performed in a press briefing to how awful that day’s tie selection was. She was fearless in that way.

She joined our world after years in the fashion industry and years doing PR at Oracle with and for Larry Ellison. Ours is a deeply technical, not particularly flashy industry compared with those. Why she came over I’ll never know, but we’re so much better for it.

Today, we lost someone really special. She was that head-snapping flash of tailing light in the clear night sky that seems to linger for eternity until its searing brilliance slips back into the stars somewhere.

Rest in peace, you beautiful woman.

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

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