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

What happens now

Posted on | February 19, 2008 | 7 Comments

Nothing like a three-day weekend after a significant industry layoff to allow time to think about what it all means (and yeah, I DO think about that stuff on the weekends). Clearly the death-by-a-thousand-cuts strategy is continuing in the electronics trade press.

First off, apologies. My big-dogs biases got the best of me last week when I wrote that EDA coverage in the electronics press has dried up. It’s not really dried up as much as it’s dispersed. Dave Maliniak, an extremely talented and technical writer at ED, reminds me that he’s still thriving at ED. Sorry (about that, Dave!) In addition, Gabe Moretti, who has trod the EDA boards in engineering, marketing and journalism for decades, is doing the people’s business at EDADesignline.com, and he contributes to EE Times, Patrick Mannion reminds me. (Sorry, boys.)

Second, here’s what happens now. No one is willing to say that which shall not uttered: kill print. It may not happen this month, but it’s gotta happen. Yes, a preponderance of decision-making engineers gets their information from print vehicles in North America (there’s affinity for it as well in virtually every other region). This goes for EE Times, EDN and ED. But the choice is to hang tough and watch the pages and staffs dwindle as more and more Baby Boomer/engineers retire.

What we’re seeing here is the Disapora of electronics coverage from the print homeland to all parts digital. It’s revealing itself most dramatically in EDA, an industry that has consolidated and knows its customers so well it’s marketing to them directly. News in the EDA sector has been repriced, and it’s going for cut rates today. That means you have to pull out the paper and organizational overhead to make money at it. That’s why Richard Goering and Gabe Moretti are online, John Cooley has been online since the get-go, Mike Santarini likely will; John Blyler and Dave Maliniak are online as an extension of their print publications.

There’s been an internal debate in the industry for several years about the role of news and the role of how-to design engineering information. At EE Times, we argued that how-to was online. That’s where it has to be because engineers are going online at the beginning of a project to find relevant design information, tips and tricks, insight and education. News is serendipitous. You don’t know what you don’t know, and searching for what you don’t know is impossible. Breaking news is online; analytical news is print, where the reading environment, habit and expectations are different.

The reality is it all has to go online. In 2008 and beyond, information is immediate. That’s the audience expectation. Cutting a print title’s circulation or is frequency (always on the table at EE Times and presumably so at EDN) is just breathing oxygen into a dying patient. The industry is demanding an advertising and marketing solution that is in line with the realities of editorial publishing today. They’ll pay, but not for IT overhead at a big company and a printing press.

What’s the answer? EE Times as the Huffington Post of the electronics industry. Those members of the Diaspora who sign up are part of a revenue-sharing model, based on something like audience growth. Those who build an engaged audience get rewarded, whether they came from EE Times or have hung out a shingle on their own. Those who don’t get guidance and help on how to do it or don’t make the cut. Dariwinian, yes. But CMP’s TechOnline already has that editorial model with its Design Line franchise. If it works for heads-down information, it should work for news.

As much as we’re fond of the old days and of the power of print, the electronics industry media needs to reassemble around this type of model. Advertisers are forcing their hand.

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Comments

7 Responses to “What happens now”

  1. Lou Covey
    February 19th, 2008 @ 1:57 pm

    It’s a reality that some people are starting to get, but the question is, will it be any better online?

    We’re in a retreat mode right now. We’re reducing magazines at the same time we are reducing staffs. Just because you are online doesn’t mean it doesn’t take less time to tap the keys. And while some people think 5 minute podcasts are even shorter have never done editing on sound or video. Nor have they set up lights microphones, done sound checks and do multiple takes.

    If anything, the web is increasing the need for manpower at a time where we are cutting it back. That is going to cost something.

    Companies covered by the electronics press seem to think that the coverage is their right, like health care, and that someone else needs to pay for it. We’ve reach the bottom of that barrel and it’s going to happen that the companies that advertise on the web will be getting the coverage on the web. Cranking out mediocre press releases for Google searches are just not going to cut it.

    The press has gone the way of lunch. It’s not free anymore.

  2. Loring Wirbel
    February 19th, 2008 @ 2:48 pm

    I worry about thoughtful analysis in an all-online environment, particularly if the news portal dwindles in the name of more gadget-blogs. Death of print I can deal with, provided I can get more online than a scrolling series of tidbits. I can find out the latest product or alliance from TechCrunch or Gizmodo, but where do I get a 50,000-foot analysis of the industry? It ain’t happening at Business Week, either print or online, and The Economist certainly can’t carry the weight of a thousand vertical industries.

  3. wretch
    February 19th, 2008 @ 6:06 pm

    I recently received an edict to include only an opening sentence of any item we publish on my rag’s website, and link to the full piece.

    Of course, there’s a click-thru rationale for that, but my company’s Digital Goddess just sent around some research to justify the edict that demonstrates that people don’t read the web so much as skim it.

    I suspect that’s the way most people read paper-based papers, but it still isn’t very encouraging when it comes to moving breaking news on the web, either.

  4. Paul Dempsey
    February 29th, 2008 @ 6:24 pm

    Brian,

    I find myself in agreement with 99% of your blog, but I think we have to agree to differ over your assertion that ‘how to’ is an activity best performed online. Anyway, here’s my personal view.

    Consider the following:

    1. Most major conferences still offer their proceedings in both print and CD-Rom form. This may change, over time, but for now all attempts to go to e-proceedings only have met with strong resistance from attendees (a pretty good match for the ‘how-to’ readership community, although I’m certainly not claiming to match the technical depth of a DAC, DATE, ISSCC or IEDM).

    2. In my experience, even where ‘how to’ information is available in an electronic format, users overwhelmingly prefer it in Acrobat PDFs because they subsequently print it out. This type of copy contains diagrams and requires a finesse in terms of its design – spitting it out in an HTML template makes something already complex even harder to follow – that it still works best within the traditional, print-led layout that Acrobat can quite faithfully replicate.

    3. ‘How to’ magazines increasingly get filed and retained. One point that perhaps we don’t make hard enough in that community is that the magazines have far longer shelf lives than even those of us who produce them may anticipate. One of the biggest surprises I got recently was the number of readers for EDATFJ who have got in touch saying that we have now been around long enough that they need an index to help them navigate the issues they have kept.

    4. The most heavily technical end of the ‘how to’ market – which, in addition to proceedings from various conferences and the more specialist titles from the learned societies, I would define as the publishing activities of groups like Springer and Reed’s Elsevier business – remains in comparatively rude health. And, again, predominantly in print. This suggests that the readership continues to see print as the most familiar format in which it receives this kind of information.

    None of these points necessarily supports a view that ‘how to’ and print will always need to go together. However, for now, they do point to a greater coincidence between content and format for that market than may be appreciated – certainly in comparison with other types of content. Thus, I’d argue that ‘how to’ is still transitioning from print and may take some time to complete the process, whereas news, analysis and features are much further along the path.

    Where will we end up – my guess is that some time from now, such content will be delivered in a locally-printed form (and indeed we have a hybrid e-and-print circulation already for our magazine in its print layout form). However, for the reasons I’ve set out above, trying to force the reader into one particular model of consumption might also not be the wisest move.

    Paul

  5. Anonymous
    July 17th, 2008 @ 10:57 pm
  6. moto
    August 31st, 2008 @ 11:05 pm
  7. ワン
    December 16th, 2008 @ 10:44 pm

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