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

B:B Publishing’s Jazz Funeral

Posted on | July 2, 2009 | 4 Comments

Summary: B:B publications in the electronics space continue to fold or shrink, but out of the ashes are rising new publications run by seasoned editors in an era when small, focused and agile define the face of media.

Compound Semiconductor magazine is being put to bed for the last time. Mike Hatcher, the publication’s publisher and editor, based in Bristol, U.K., wrote in an email:

“Over recent months, IOP Publishing, the company that owns Compound Semiconductor magazine, has undertaken a strategic review of its priorities as a learned-society publisher of leading journals, magazines, websites and electronic services.

As a result of that review, IOP Publishing has decided to cease publication of Compound Semiconductor magazine and its accompanying web site, The July 2009 issue will be the final issue of the magazine published by IOP Publishing, and the web site will not be updated after July 7, 2009.”

Hatcher’s last day will be the seventh. His email address, if you’d like to get in touch, is (Thanks to Tom McHale for the tip).

Unfortunate news, to be sure, but it’s never good form to be too maudlin about the death of a publication. All are created with a certain application or audience in mind, and they derive nice profits from that focus. Over time those applications change and so does the audience, and there’s no longer a need for the publication. Remember Electronic Buyer’s News?

The feeling in this sector in the past two years has been one of an extended wake as we get laid off or we watch our friends get laid off and publications close amid a feeling that, as Jim Morrison sang, “this is the end.”

New Stirrings

But it’s not. It’s the beginning. The people who believe that are making things happen again in publishing.

Richard Wallace

Out in the salt-scented summer air of eastern Long Island, Richard Wallace, one of the industry’s longtime and most prominent editors, has launched his new site, The Next Silicon Richard, laid off last November from three decades at EE Times, took some time off and then this year began in earnest building his next publication.

If you’ve ever worked with Richard, you know that phrase—“begun in earnest”—is an understatement; he is the Tazmanian Devil when it comes to launching Web sites and communities. He’s come out firing with a serious site dedicated to news and information about global innovation and the places it’s happening. He blogs and tweets and publishes his newsletter with the enthusiasm of a 21-year-old. In a matter of a few months, he has built a site that’s bringing global perspective back into an industry that has seen it wither with its declining publications.

John Donovan

When RTC Group shut down Portable Design this spring, John Donovan, its editor, was out of a job. Some editors might have thrown up their hands and wondered “why ^#^&$! me?” In Donovan’s case, it wasn’t 24 hours after his layoff that he was on the phone with me and others excitedly kicking around plans for his next publication, its editorial content and business strategy. That publication,, launched this week, barely a few months from the death of his old publication. Steve Leibson and I are blogging for it, and Donovan is running the show, luring sponsors, managing the content, hacking around in content-management land when he’s not shepherding the kids around.

What’s Happening Here?

These aren’t fresh-outs. They’ve been around this business for more than 30 years. They’re at an age where, in previous generations, it’s getting close to gold-watch time. Instead they are reinventing the B:B publishing business in front of our eyes.

The beauty of today, amid the firestorm that’s consuming B:B publishing, is that guys like Donovan and Hatcher and Wallace can build anew within weeks. They’re keeping up feeds on Twitter, LinkedIn, leveraging old relationships, building new ones and publishing like crazy. Sponsors are taking notice. It doesn’t take many to support a small site today. How it scales we’ll find out; but it’s a great start.

Meanwhile, some large, established publishers are hosting internal idea fests and wondering just how to approach this “Twitter thing.” Others have seen the light and have jumped into social media enthusiastically. We’re entering straits in which speedboats perform best, not tankers.

Calling the Tune

Until recently, electronics B:B publishing was a handful of titles run by a few large publishing houses, owned by even larger, faceless corporations, many times removed from the audience that helped pay their salaries. The face of B:B publishing today–aside from modest-sized traditional players like RTC–is Wallace, Donovan, Blyler, Sperling, Morris, and others bringing a fresh perspective and energy to an old business. At the same time, an army of engineer-bloggers is emerging to add voice the conversation.

That ain’t no wake; it’s a party.

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4 Responses to “B:B Publishing’s Jazz Funeral”

  1. Richard Wallace
    July 2nd, 2009 @ 5:34 pm

    Brian,thanks very much for the recognition – and the ink. I do believe it’s a new beginning, not just for me, you, John Donovan, and other seasoned journalists, but for an entire generation of media professionals who, no matter what we do, can’t get the publishing bug out of our systems. Print may be dead or dying, but I believe journalism is very much alive and very well, thank you. The tools and platforms needed to break with the past and carve a new, independent road ahead are just an http:// away. More important perhaps, social networking tools like Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter provide not just the mechanisms for staying connected and leveraging old contacts, but also a new form of personal and product branding that are right-sized and well suited to individuals, as opposed to mega-soul-less corporations that seem slaveshly focused on the daily gains or losses of a penny or more to their share prices -not what’s best for our society, country, economy – or the future of journalism. With so much press about the death of newspapers I fear that a new generation of journalists may get dispirited and choose to look elsewhere for work in fields that have not yet had their business models disrupted by the Internet. That would be a shame, if not a tragedy for the profession. Yes, old guys like me have lots of staying power and our love of journalism keeps us going – even when the lure of the gold watch may seem compelling. But a democratic society as large and vibrant as ours needs legions of new reporters, story tellers, truth tellers, writers and independent publishers who understand that the media giants of old can no longer be depended upon to supply the publishing platforms, career paths, security, or smart ideas they once did. The indepenent route, the road less traveled, may not be for everybody, but I for one can attest that it’s a viable, thrilling path, and for me, and my readers – it’s making all the difference. Thanks again for your ongoing support and encouragement.

  2. John Donovan
    July 3rd, 2009 @ 5:24 am

    Brian, let me add my thanks to Rich’s. Both your thoughts and thoughtfulness are greatly appreciated.

    I also agree with your analysis. I think this is the end of mass publishing–certainly in the B:B space–with the print side feeling the most pain since that’s where the expenses are (and, to date, the salaries). The problem is one medium is dying off while its successor is still being born.

    I agree with you and Rich that the way forward is small, independent news sites run by citizen (often laid-off) journalists: namely blogs. The good ones will rise above the noise level and do well. Not well enough to support big buildings and huge staffs but a network of trusted freelancers who can supply worldwide coverage of a particular focus area. Being focused is key.

    The business plan is the tricky part. Working from a home office minimizes your expenses, while the social media help offset the marketing budget the big publishers (used to) have. Online ads are definitely a commodity, but you don’t have to charge much to cover your minimal overhead.

    Still, I think sponsorships are the way to go. Find companies who believe in you and are willing to help support you on an ongoing basis. It’s almost the NPR model, or your Dad saying, “Well done, son,” while he slips a 20 in your pocket. As an alternative to ads look to targeted sponsorships–of a newsletter, site section, etc.

    How well all of this scales remains to be seen. I think the HuffPost is in the lead here–a combination new source and aggregator with a huge freelance network. Predictably opinionated but always worth reading. And doing well enough to be talking about an IPO.

    Right now I just want to get some more coffee, surf my morning reading list and catch up with Twitter and Facebook. Carry on, friends, and best of luck to you.

  3. Lou Covey
    July 3rd, 2009 @ 12:43 pm

    Of course I agree with all these fellow silverbacks. the essence of journalism will survive, but it’s the financial model that is and has to change. Advertising will not support modern journalism, because no one understands that advertising is just sponsorship with out the graphic-intensive work. Sponsors and patrons will be the way modern journalism will be supported, and those that don’t support it will be on the ash-heap of technology history.

  4. Paul Miller
    July 7th, 2009 @ 1:36 pm

    Firstly, I think this is a great discussion and great news for all involved.

    I would say that equating print declines in BtoB with the death of BtoB is wrong. As you know, EETimes now has 7x the online revenue as print and is very profitable online with a large global audience.

    We have much work to do in exploiing the growth but I’m pleased that we still house terrific journalists on staff including Junko Yoshida, Rick Merritt, Mark Lepedus, Peter Clarke, Nic Mokoff, Patrick Mannion, Dylan McGrath, Rich Nass, Bolaji Ojo, Bill Schweber and others as well as a growing “Trusted Sources” network and a continuing roster of freelance contributors.

    There is room today for many different models – not all will win through and there will be changes but the fact that people such as yourselves are standing up and pitching in should be welcomed by all…I wish you all the very best!!

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