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

Tale of two magazines

Posted on | July 22, 2008 | No Comments

Last week, during a short break in my two-week sojourn to the mountains, I came across two magazines: The new EE Times form and Xilinx Corp.’s Xcell Journal, now run by Mike Santarini, late of EDN and EE Times. The magazines – the same format – represent the two faces of contemporary publishing.
Times wrestled for years with going to magazine format. The reasons included cost savings (less paper) and the fact that with all news online today, a magazine gives readers a more thoughtful, reflective feel and better packaging.
Two years ago, I convened a group of editors at EE Times to run through the pros and cons of going to magazine format. We looked at it from purely an editorial standpoint (in other words, without considering cost savings or advertiser issues, what are the benefits to going magazine). To a person, we could find none. That’s not to say magazines aren’t a great format; to the contrary–we held up The Economist as a model of where we could go. But magazines aren’t for everyone, and the last two magazines we could think of in the electronics space (Electronics and Electronic Business) didn’t fare well.
EE Times is in a very tough position. In the words of a former colleague now working outside of electronics in an online news position, “the electronics press has been completely disintermediated.” Engineers are probably the most educated readers in the world. Once the Internet gave them a superhighway to the most technical information at company Web sites, that disintermediation began, he notes. They don’t need filters for this. They have their own. Information is free and increasingly difficult to monetize.
Now switch to Xcell Journal. The first issue under Santarini contains a robust mix of technical copy, most from Xilinx but a fair amount from outside (non-Xilinx) sources. This type of content once poured forth from Times, EDN and Electronic Design. Given staff cuts it either trickles or it doesn’t come at all. But Xilinx (or Altera or fill-in-the-blank) is on the front lines of this information today. Are they shilling for themselves? At the end of the day, of course, but not in the sordid sense of the word. There’s a saying in marketing: People don’t mind advertising as long as it’s relevant. In Xilinx’s case, they have an ex-editor working to make the house organ relevant to the industry.
This isn’t to say Xcell Journal trumps TechInsights’ EE Times or EDN or ED or Kevin Morris at the online FPGA Journal. But the value placed on “objectivity” is diminishing as people become better at being their own filters. In addition, the magazines can’t compete vertically anymore, unless they bust apart their age-old notions that each issue has to be a sampling of information from around the industry. That’s built around old advertising and printing rules.
Flash forward to today: I for one would love to see a world, for example, where Ron Wilson twice a month uses an entire EDN issue as his intellectual palette on the state of system design, top to bottom (and, where applicable) as his bully pulpit. Talk about high readability.
Publishing rules are dead. Long live the publishing rules.

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No Responses to “Tale of two magazines”

  1. Lou Covey
    July 22nd, 2008 @ 9:57 pm

    From a large company perspective, the Xilinx model works, but it’s unworkable for small to medium companies. Xilinx can afford to hire a Mike Santarini to focus on their technology niche and it’s smart idea for Xilinx because they can control a large segment of the conversation now. Altera, if they’re smart, will try to do the same thing. But what about the sub $500M companies that compete in their space.

    There’s still a place for independent publications in whatever format, online or print, but they have to be supported by the smaller companies if they expect to survive… and if the publications want their support, they’re gonna have to start covering them more.

  2. jeff
    July 25th, 2008 @ 4:20 pm

    Just like in the IT and software development industries, it’d be nice to see electronics companies permit their experts to write *educationally* on their respective spaces, link to and comment on related articles, only promoting their own company every now and then. And they could use online tools to do it economically and easily.

    Phew, I made it through that without using the polarizing concept “blogging.”

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