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

Media re-aggregation picks up steam

Posted on | March 24, 2008 | No Comments

We’ve long chronicled the disaggregation of the media business, especially in the trade press, and Sam Whitmore at MediaSurvey, among others, has tirelessly reported on companies evolving into publishers. That re-aggregation of editorial talent within companies will continue next Monday when former EE Times and EDN editor Mike Santarini takes over a publishing role inside specialty-semiconductor house Xilinx. (Mike lost his job in the recent carpet-bombing at EDN).
Mike, who has covered the design-automation community for more than a decade, dropped me a note just now saying he’ll start March 31 as publisher/senior manager of the FPGA company’s Xcell Journal. He brings experience from monthly, bi-monthly, weekly and daily (online) publishing. Not a bad combo. Says he:

I’m going to give the book a much greater technical focus to better serve the Xilinx community and ecosystem.

He reports into Lisa Washington, a longtime communications professional in the business.
What strikes me is that the job falls within the communications group. In other words, content creation in this role is run by communications directly, rather than marketing, where it is entrenched in many other companies. (Yes, communications reports into marketing, but I like the Xilinx structure: Communications owns the story and tells it better than anyone, so it must be responsible for content creation).
Company publications aren’t new (Xcell Journal has been around for a while; Mentor Graphic’s EDA Tech Forum Journal has been run for years by longtime ink-stained wretch Paul Dempsey). But more and more out-of-work media professionals are finding their way into jobs. Prepare to see an evolution of content in these pubs as well. There will be some give and take, but companies, I think, will begin to allow these publications to function less as house organs for the company line and more as thought-leadership devices, as they raise issues and bring in partners and even competitors to create conversations.

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No Responses to “Media re-aggregation picks up steam”

  1. Dark_Faust
    March 25th, 2008 @ 3:39 pm

    Hi Brian. I’m not so sure that companies will permit their editors to cover the broader stories – so to speak. Will be interesting to see how this all unfolds over the next 5 years or so.

  2. Dark_Faust
    March 25th, 2008 @ 3:41 pm

    Dark_faust? Google posting mechanism is a real pain. Tried to post as myself – John Blyler – but I couldn’t get the ID/password right. Time for a drink…..

  3. Loring Wirbel
    March 25th, 2008 @ 3:44 pm

    No, not time for a drink, time to change your professional name to Dark Faust. It has a certain ring. (And I’m waiting to see the Xilinx journal run a story on “Altera: Best High-Speed Serial I/O Blocks in the Business?” Better not hold my breath.)

  4. Mike Santarini
    March 25th, 2008 @ 5:01 pm

    I’m not going to put on any disguises folks: I’m no longer an independent journalist. I work for Xilinx, and so the book is about Xilinx, its customers, and the ecosystem to help customers make great designs with Xilinx chips—and of course the end-goal is to help Xilinx sell more chips. What’s very cool about it is the technology is solid and I believe in it (and Wirbel—Xilinx is the marketshare leader—look at the numbers). That said there’s always room for improvement. One of my first stops is Xilinx’ FAE conference to find out what issues Xilinx customers are facing and build editorial to address those problems…that’s the running plan. I’ll have a better idea of the situation when I get there, but I have high hopes! Not much of that been happening in the J world for a while…

  5. Greeley's Ghost
    March 25th, 2008 @ 5:22 pm

    Dark Faust is a fantastic handle! I agree with Loring, John: Adopt away!
    To your point: independence may be a thing of the past. The independent press is really only 150 years old or so, everything preceding the Industrial Revolution being someone’s ax to grind something.
    I think that more englightened companies will understand the potential for them to be industry leaders through their media/content. IBM certainly does, but they’re rare. Most companies are very immature when it comes to marketing.
    But the internet, notions of openness and transparency, may be forcing them to change their tune.
    Then again it could all be B.S.
    We shall see.
    I’ll give Xilinx credit for the fact that their marketing has risen above (for the most part) the blood pool that Altera has tried to drag it into. Before we both parted ways with our former employers, Anna Del Rosario and I talked about this. I told her that Altera absolutely had to get over Xilinx. She understood it, but getting cultural buy-in for that endeavor is hard over there.

  6. David Maliniak
    March 26th, 2008 @ 9:32 am

    First, congrats to Mike S. for landing on his feet!

    The ability — and willingness — of any corporate entity to attach openness and transparency to its communication vehicle is, I believe, directly tied to its market success. In other words, if you’re on top, you can afford to appear magnanimous in your corporate rag, even allowing its editor(s) to mention competitors. The fact that Xilinx is currently on top of the FPGA hill may give Mike a bit of latitude. But I’d bet it won’t be much.

    Brian, to your broader point about media independence, I don’t believe that the consumers of information are ever going to ignore the sources of that information. A corporate-sponsored journal will always be docked some indeterminate number of credibility points. Its readers are *expecting* a pitch, however veiled it may be. In some cases, there may be obeisance to notions of “transparency” but in the end, as Mike said himself, something is being sold.

    Personally, I’m not sure how I’d handle the sort of transition that Mike is making. There’s a certain switch that needs to be flipped in your approach to your work. I’ll say this much: Over my many years in professional life I’ve danced with a few would-be employers, some of whom were on the “dark side.” It has not been uncommon to run into skepticism regarding my ability to flip that switch. And I can’t say I blamed them for it.

  7. mike santarini
    March 26th, 2008 @ 11:48 am

    I expect it will be a challenge as with any new gig, but with full disclosure: this is not independent journalism—I work for Xilinx. Plus, before folks cast stones, you really have to take a hard, realistic look at the state of “independent journalism” today…especially B2B…there are a lot of shades of gray.

    There are many folks today who work part time as contractors, writing white papers, and ghosting contribs and then working part time as “independent journalist.” They are all great people and all great writers, but in wearing that many hats to pay the bills, one has to wonder, how can they be objective? Some may be able to pull it off. But from the outside, when you see their by-lines, do you question the credibility of their stories? Do you even know who they are paid by/obliged to? Is there any disclosure to readers akin to what financial analysts now have to do these days? Should there be? “Contributing editor xxxx does contract work for companies A, B, and C?…”

    Then there are full time journalists working for brand name pubs. I didn’t have to deal with the following issue when I was at EET and EDN, but I’ve heard directly from editors at various B2B pubs that their publishers are sending sales folks to accompany the editors on editorial calls. How does that affect objectivity? Is the practice, when it happens, disclosed to readers? Should it be?

    I’m not trying to deceive anyone here. What I’m doing now is working for Xilinx full time.

  8. David Maliniak
    March 26th, 2008 @ 1:43 pm

    Mike, please understand that I wasn’t trying to cast stones or impugn your integrity. I respect your openness about what you’ll be doing at Xilinx and I’m positive you’ll do a great job.

    Shades of grey indeed. You bet. It is no secret that my own publication has engaged in what it terms “sponsored editorial” for several years now. Other B2B pubs in the EOEM have gone this route as well in one form or another. It makes for some tricky maneuvering to maintain objectivity, but you do the best you can. It’s made for some interesting discussions, both internal and external.

    People cross all kinds of lines anymore. Some individuals are PR people one day, journalists of some stripe the next. Others are publishers one day, PR reps the next. It’s getting weirder out there all the time.

  9. Dark_Faust
    March 26th, 2008 @ 6:39 pm

    Great discussion! I doubt that most folks from outside our small circle will follow the discourse, but this discussion captures the basic questions upon which the profession of journalism will evolve – or de-evolve.

    I think that Mike and David are hitting close to the mark. “Too many shades of gray.” More than once I’ve had to tell my editors (freelancers) to pay attention to who sponsors the magazine when writing their stories. Not so much to bias their reporting/writing, but rather to make sure the sponsors have some level of coverage. A small sin, perhaps, but a sin none the less. It definitely enters into the “neutral zone,” if you will.

    In this matter I think perception will trump reality. Readers will still view company sponsored editorial as less credible, regardless of the legitimate issues that Mike brings up about “full disclosure” from editors – “Contributing editor xxxx does contract work for companies A, B, and C?…” — Dark Faust (OK, I’ll keep the handle. Actually, it’s an old name I used years ago on LiveJournal. Coming back to haunt me 🙂

  10. Loring Wirbel
    March 27th, 2008 @ 9:23 am

    Mike, your “full disclosure” runs to the heart of what so many media critics say about so-called independent journalism in the first place – that the whole notion of objectivity is a bit of a scam, as all media sources come to the table with built-in biases. As David said, most consumers of media will look at everything with a skeptical eye, including pieces that clearly carry a Xilinx or HP or Cisco brand, or pieces that supposedly come from an unbiased third-party source.

    And as for your earlier comments on Xilinx market share – of course! We give Altera a bit of that Avis-try-harder-as-number-two plug, but as Fuller told Anna, the time for Altera to get over Xilinx is long past. Good luck on the gig!

  11. Greeley's Ghost
    March 27th, 2008 @ 9:46 am

    Dave said it best: it’s getting weirder all the time. But, the optimist that I try to be, I think any writer who follows full disclosure and works hard to be honest with himself does the right thing.
    To another point, writing for a company does grind on you if you’ve been an independent journalist for any number of years. That’s one reason I keep up blogs. It gives me a measure of personal freedom in writing about subjects.
    To a third point, as the B:B landscape disintegrates in front of us, we’ll have to make tradeoffs (to Mike’s point): Our industry has a finite set of writers/editors. They need to make a living. If they can’t do it on a thriving publication, they need some latitude to consult and write freelance articles. Maintain the full disclosure. (“Hey, I’m writing about so and so and I was a paid consultant for them six months ago.”)
    Pretty soon, we’ll all be drifting between these roles, as Bursky’s done and Bernie Cole, to name a couple.

  12. Mike Santarini
    March 27th, 2008 @ 3:29 pm

    Full disclosure is how it should work. That said, folks, there are folks whom I’ve met and whom I have worked with that I trust are on the up and up. They have a track record for accuracy, integrity and about 80% percent of them work in brand name pubs. The others worked in them until recently or got out early and became of all things an EE. Even the cats that came from J school, then did a stint or two in PR, should understand that there is a certain ethic to doing independent journalism (no contract work on the side, full disclosure, accept no pricy gifts, can’t invest in companies you cover or could cover). The guys who come from the industry side, EEs, SE, etc. need to learn this and if they don’t have an old school J guy to teach them, they think being on the take is the norm. It’s a disciplined profession, it’s a Spartan life (plug for Xilinx low cost FPGAs) and if you’re going to do it, you should do it 100% right. If you don’t then it really effs up the reputation of your peers and in turn the reputations (and value) of the folks who live by the creed. You gotta prevent marketers from wondering “If I can buy them, why can’t I buy you” or “if he’s on the take, you must be too.” It gets even worse when you get upper publishing executives, who don’t have J backgrounds (and could have turned used car salesman or peddled slicing and dicing machines on QVC had not some fool in history hired them into publishing) making decisions and chasing every loose dime when things get tough. All you guys should band together and just start a real pub. The brain trust on this board could make the Sir so and so’s in the UK send in the redcoats. Silicon Valley-broad based EE trade sounds good to me…

  13. Loring Wirbel
    March 27th, 2008 @ 5:26 pm

    Amen to that, Mike, but it’s not limited to those who came up in the EE culture. Virtually everyone who is involved with covering the Web 2.0 industry, most with a mix of software, business, marketing, and journalism degrees, are on the take big-time, and some of them are quite proud of being able to be bought. It’s disgusting from the traditional J school perspective.

  14. Ink_stained_wretch
    March 28th, 2008 @ 10:08 am

    First off, if John’s taking dark_faust then ink_stained_wretch is mine – do you understand, all mine. I love it.

    However, more specifically addressing this whole ‘shades of grey’ thing, is it not really down to those of use who edit and deliver the information to make sure that these do not exist? And, in most cases, is that not achieved simply by ensuring that the provenance of your content is clear?

    The reality that we should all recognize – and the length of the teeth on here is pretty great, is it not, guys – is that we live or die by our ability to meet the needs of a relatively sophisticated audience. If you merely reproduce marcom guffery, you’ll get spotted very quickly, and your market will evaporate – and so much is true whether you have independent funding or funding from the industry.

    From that, then, we can conclude that both provenance and quality do still matter – in short, the essentials stand regardless of from where you approach the market. If you can keep that uppermost in your mind, resolving the other issues is actually simpler than it appears.

    However, I will admit to one heresy. It has long been my belief that editorial’s understanding of its own marketing requirements (very distinct from reflecting what other marketeers want them to say) has been pretty feeble. So, maybe it’s just that my perspective has been colored for a long time.


  15. dark_faust
    March 30th, 2008 @ 2:51 pm

    Thanks, Loring, for pointing out that both technical guys and professional journalists can be “on the take.” Nevertheless – speaking as a long time EE turned editor (still not sure if I can call myself a journalist) – I’ve learned a great deal about the integrity of journalism from Mike, David and many others.

    And now, to the-editor-formerly-known-as-Paul-Dempsey – we seem to have our “nom de plumes” selected for us. Must be fate. BTW: “Ink_stained_wretch” probably sounds great in Latin. – faustus

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