We've been following a string of thought regarding the changes at UBM properties. I've personally avoided making any judgement on the philosophical approach the company has taken. It is what it is.
However, the recent round of layoffs really cut into the bone of their content development. Calling Nic Mokhoff, Barbara Jorgenson and Bolaji Ojo redundant... even when you have all stars like Alex Wolfe, Patrick Mannion and Brian Fuller still on the team... is mindboggling to me.
UBM has had a habit of cutting back far too much and then having to rehire too fast. (I remember when Dave Burskey was hired to replace Ron Wilson, after a gap of several months to cover semiconductors, and then laid Burskey off before a year was out) This time I think they may have gone too far and the opportunities for great journalists to work independently in corporations is going to thin the available talent very fast.
Recently Intel launched a site called the Intel Free Press. this is one of those efforts that is being called "branded but independent" journalism. Yes, Intel is footing the bill, but they are leaving the editorial team alone in content development. they don't have to worry about advertisers or revenue or even readership. They can concentrate on just making good content for the Intel ecosystem. What does Intel need with UBM publications and events now?
At Design West, the strain on UBM editors was palpable, and those former editors were exhulting in the freedom they had in the corporate walls. That tells me UBM may have gone too far again. Several years ago, I sat with Brian Fuller on a boat in San Diego and talked about his frustration with UBM's continual dismantling of staff. A few months later he left the company and told me it was an issue of ethics.He just couldn't continue keep letting people go. After several years of checking the world out, he was lured back into UBM. Now he's in charge of a publication that has little resources. He looks tired. I'm wondering how long he's going to last this time. At least now he won't be laying people off at EBN. He's all there is of staff. The rest are freelancers. We're going to see another significant personnel shift at UBM, but it won't be layoffs. There are jobs out there for good journalists who are willing to think a little differently.
Don't get me wrong. The UBM sites produce good content ... right now. But you need people who know what good content is to produce it. I don't know, maybe that's the plan: force the content creators to go to the advertisers and then make them pay to put it on your titles. But what's to stop the advertisers from starting their own titles. Why should they pay?
Going to be an interesting year, for sure. More to come.