Posted on | August 31, 2009 | 2 Comments
I have a unique perch these days: I blog here and other places and am now building a community/social media strategy at Numetrics. I straddle the worlds of media and publicity/marketing, which is not a dull place to be. I’m a big proponent of vendor-as-publisher strategies, and I’ll write more about what we’re doing at Numetrics in the coming weeks. At this point, we’re defining our audiences, envisioning how our own content will be created and delivered to them… and what role the media plays. And there’s a vaccuum right now.
Tumbleweeds in the Town Square
As much as vendor-as-publisher is the way companies must evolve their communications strategies, it’s not the end game, despite the publishing industry’s woes. Companies can hire people like me, Richard Goering, Mike Santarini, and Dave Bursky and that experience and expertise will go a lo
ng way toward upgrading their content, messaging and community (or so we’d like to think!). But the industry still needs a town square. And the ones we used to congregate , where ideas were floated and debated, are quickly becoming overgrown with weeds. The scramble to post stories to create ad avails to sell low-margin ads is so great that editors have a difficult time finding time to sniff out the information that makes us gather in the town square. A lot of the content on sites today is warmed-over press releases or quick takes on earnings news, both of which are already in the public domain by the time publications cover them. So
there’s no journalistic value add there. Occasionally in the scramble, there’s some great stuff. Rick Merritt’s blast last week for EE Times that marketing is ruining technical conferences such as HotChips is a case in point. Ron Wilson, a man drawn to fountain pens, calligraphy, and ancient graceful forms of film photography, somehow still manages to wrestle time to his advantage. These guys used to be the rule; now they’re the exception.
The good news is that many of the old pros and plenty of new ones are navigating the digital waters for themselves. John Day, who used to cover automotive electronics for EE Times, resurfaced with John Day’s Automotive Electronics, one of the most professional looking sites I’ve seen created in our space in the past year. A little experience, a little motivation, a few connections and a little WordPress and voila, he’s his own publisher.
The Reformation of our industry’s media is underway. But at this uncompleted point in the transformation, there’s a vaccuum. That town square ain’t there. We all have our own little town squares, thanks to social media, but much of that dynamic is simply an echo chamber.
The problem for technical coverage may turn out to be similar to the problem we see with national issues: the explosion and specialization of broadcast media in the past three decades and now the explosion of social channels has created echo chambers for every issue. Media in turn covers itself or the artillery exchanges between the various echo chambers. Yet real issues go uncovered.
This will become an increasing challenge within the technical press. Editors are rebuilding the trade press one new site at a time, but they’re hyper-focused and supported by advertisers who sell products into those hyper-focused application areas. The approach certainly has its place. But there’s a danger that they become their own technology echo chambers, and no one–not even companies–wants that.
As we get more and more focused, who will cover the larger issues that affect the industry that don’t fit nicely into the niches? Who will spark the conversations that move an industry forward after lively debate? How will the sparks that start in small social media groupings rise to become major industry industry conversations?
What do you think?