Ron Ploof had an interesting reply to my post on a marketing veep's revelation about the death of B2B media. He posited the well-known premise that the news media really isn't necessary anymore because engineers talk to each other through email, blogging, forums and trade shows. He said, "These are all valuable channels for objective third-party research.
I replied that he had a point, but that the engineers that use the tools and technologies are not actually the ones the buy them. Their bosses buy them and only with the blessing of the bean counters, and those guys don't get their information by talking with people at other companies.
But that exchange bothered me over the weekend and I awoke at 4 a.m. today with my own wait-a-minute moment (a WAM moment?) that came out as a question I just posted on Twitter. If engineers really do talk to each other about technology, then why are so many surprised when they come across something really cool that works?
See, I've been in this business a long time and what I find is people who consume media content that exists are rarely surprised by anything that comes up in conversation, but are generally open minded about new ideas. People who don't are often alarmed at things they hear, sending out blast email's to everyone they know with dire warnings, and are leery of any report that might conflict with their own knowledge.
When it comes to engineers, many believe that what they know is common knowledge and are stunned when someone tells them they've never heard their concept. Case in point:
When I represented a fairly significant semiconductor company that had a large Apple division for a customer, we were at a trade show where they were demonstrating a particular chip that they had not put much effort into promoting. It was a popular product after all and the product manager believed that engineers talk to each other and they all knew about what was available.
On the second day of the show, five people came up to the booth to have a look see. They were all from a new division at Apple creating an exciting new product (guess which one?) They had a demonstration on the chip in questions and then responded. "Gee," said the Apple product manager, "If we knew you had this we would have designed it in."
This company believed that engineers talk to each other. At the very least the talk to each other within the company, right? Well, Apple was a major customer of this chip company and they didn't know this "obviously great product" existed. Right now, that company no longer has Apple as a major customer.
This is just one incident. But I have hundreds of examples that are very similar, many of them over the course of the past five years.
Yes, the conversation between engineers is very important. You should not believe everything your read, see or hear. But the conversation has to start somewhere and if it starts and stops in your circle, you have a very limited perspective. It becomes less informative and more unsubstantiated rumor.
The traditional media, for all it's faults, is generally where our conversations begin, and many times end. When it goes away... and it is going away from many venues... out ability to function properly is going to severely hampered.