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

Hacks and flacks-what we need

Posted on | June 7, 2007 | No Comments

I attend a conference and exhibit every year for technical software called the Design Automation Conference. The past several years there’s a panel called “Hacks and Flacks” in which, well, hacks and flacks gather in a room to talk about how better to communicate and use media. I was invited to participate in this year’s earlier today.

For the first time, the backers had a real live new media guy on the panel, which was fantastic. John Furrier is the founder and CEO of Podtech who has taken podcasting from a personal passion to a thriving organization in just three years.

It’s clear after listening to John, watching the audience reaction, and knowing what I know about many of the marketing and media folks in our industry, that we have some work ahead of us. (Furrier hadn’t posted anything as of this afternoon but that’s not to say he won’t).

It was frustrating to listen to Furrier wax lyrical about Web 2.0 because what this generation of web tools brings us is mind-bending and it’s only just beginning. It’s frustrating because of our audience. Our audience–engineers and technical management—doesn’t engage at the bleeding or even leading edge of media consumption. Not to say they won’t, but they don’t right now. In CMP’s software group, for instance, podcasting is huge because coders for the most part code with headphones on listening to iTunes or training podcasts or news podcasts. Electrical engineers aren’t like that.

The other frustration is the generally held and totally stupid notion that print is dead. If print was dead in our space, we wouldn’t have 70 percent resubscribe rates, we wouldn’t have 75 percent of the audience telling us they read at least three out of every four issues of EE Times. Our discussion this morning really went long on new media. A lot of people in that room are just learning about it (one marketer not in the room recently chunked up a meeting we were having on a new site by trying to get us to shrink a competitor’s name in the site’s tag cloud. This marketer didn’t understand what community content is all about and how control ain’t happenin).

But I want to say this about print: if you can customize a web site, you can customize print. You can deliver special editions to certain slices of your audience and get higher page rates because of it and you can do it on a weekly basis. See John Duncan’s Inksniffer treatise on how to do this in DAILY newspapers.

Probably my biggest frustration is with the state of journalism in our sector right now. The time pressure on my people is extraordinary. I know: I put it on them. They have to blog, write more traditional online news stories, write for print, help generate content concepts for trade shows, do media days, do video. At the same time, many companies in semiconductors and EDA seem only concerned with getting product coverage.

We were just getting to the “what do YOU guys need from us” point of the morning, when the clock ran out. But here’s the answer: advertiser support across mediums. If the industry’s really serious about wanting coverage, it’s got to shift the dollars back into third-party media. Sure invest in your website; you need to. And maybe investing in your own conferences is good, but as my colleague Loring Wirbel points out, if five company events replace one Embedded Systems Conference, editors can only cover so much.

Otherwise the death spiral will continue, as fewer editors are asked to cover more and quality suffers and readers drift off because of it.

It’s more likely, I suspect, that the effects of disaggregation will continue. The pieces of the traditional media-customer relationship will collapse but then re-congeal in a new more efficient form. And that should be the evolution with any new technology.

But between here and there, is a painful trip.

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No Responses to “Hacks and flacks-what we need”

  1. Mike Santarini
    June 8th, 2007 @ 12:02 pm

    Great blog, amigo, and great to see you at DAC. I can’t imagine the pressure you are feeling and sadly I can’t help but notice the depressing tone of your posts. I strongly believe true traditional journalism has an exciting future and a place in “new journalism.” I believe a lot of the troubles some older brands are now experiencing start with their management’s desperate attempts to seek revenue and hit numbers in any way shape or form…and unfortunately that often has come the expense of the integrity of their editors and eventually their brands. I’m lucky to be on a big brand that still adhears to THE ethic while embracing change.

    I was walking with an old friend and editor from another book at the show and he told me his sales force is sending a sales person out to accompany him to some vendor meetings. Holy smokes…push back. If that doesn’t work…leave and go to a book that still has THE ethic OR start your own brand–leverage your own brand built on a foundation of THE ethic…make that the new “new journalism!” Over the years, Brian Fuller, has become a formidable brand. You can control your own brand, and you can try but ultimately you can’t, at least currently, fully control your management’s and in turn your company’s.

    Onward and upward, your fan and friend,


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