Girish Mhatre weighs in on B2B content marketing

Girish Mhatre was at one time the Grand Poobah at EE Times (editor in chief, that is) in the publication's print heyday.  He's made some valuable comment on this blog this year regarding the trend toward content marketing and branded content.  He dropped me a note today that serves as an excellent introduction to a new series we are developing here called "Why CEO's should be scared s(p)itless about their content.  I offer Girish's observations without comment... for now. ;)


Girish Mhatre, journalist and wine enthusiast

Hi Lou, prompted by a conversation with you, I’ve conducted an informal survey of company content strategies. Here are some observations: I must say that I don’t get it. If this is the state of the art in content marketing by tech companies, then it’s not very effective -- with one exception. 

Cadence: I am hugely unimpressed. Perhaps Fuller hasn’t got his arms around a strategy yet (Note: Girish is right. Met with Fuller this week and, he says he's still trying to get his arms around it.), but, as it stands now, it’s simple, straightforward, uninteresting reporting, one step above “backgrounders” that might accompany press releases. The best thing that could be said about this section is that it is inoffensive. And, there’s not a single reader comment on any of their articles. I kept wondering why this section even exists. 

Altera: Ron Wilson’s bailiwick at Altera seems better defined. “We hope to bring you the latest thinking on the key challenges in the real world: defining system requirements, making architectural decisions, planning for implementation and—especially—verification, and estimating and measuring system performance.” 

All to the good. Ron writes in-depth, dense, technical analyses, as is his wont, but there’s no indication that it’s being noticed. (Ron used to call it as he saw it, so I wonder how he likes hewing to the company line.) Again, there are no user comments. I suspect that in both these cases, “engagement’ remains elusive. (At least as measured by reader comments.) 

Digikey’s been adding custom content from Publitek and Electronic Products. But it is buried so deep within the site that I doubt it’s doing any good. 

Also looked at OracleVoice on Forbes (Alex Wolfe now writing there) and the IBM sponsored content on The Atlantic. The IBM thing is slightly more interesting because it is more expansive. The Oracle thing is simply weird; I found it superficial boosterism: “Isn’t-technology-wonderful-especially-if-you-are-an-Oracle-customer” kind of thing,

Question: where do these company editors reside within the corporate hierarchy? In marcom, or elsewhere? Also, how are their contributions (effectiveness) measured? Perhaps it’s too early to establish.

Now for the exception: Qualcomm Spark ( is going in the right direction. This is a real, apparently well-funded effort to create something informative, engaging and valuable. It needs to be edgier, though.  

It’s not as if content marketing is new. It’s been around since the dawn of time, spanning many generations of media technology. But it’s not a matter of hiring a couple of journalists. There has to be a content publishing strategy, no? 

Yes, Girish, there needs to be a strategy.  Working on that for next week.  Stay tuned for Why CEOs should be scared s(p)itless about content.


Argh! I hate it when I'm right

Not 5 minutes after I posted I got a rumor that Brian Fuller was leaving his position at the UBM online publication EBN for a corporate position at Cadence Design. I just had it confirmed.

Earlier today I posited that the latest downsizing at UBM editorial might have been a step too far and that there would be a voluntary exodus of the talent still on board.

Not 5 minutes after I posted I got a rumor that Brian Fuller was leaving his position at the UBM online publication EBN for a corporate position at Cadence Design. I just had it confirmed.

I also suggested that people who had been laid off in January would be approached to return and that few would take the offer.  I've learned today that several offers have been rebuffed, even from those that have not yet found permanent employment.

Corporations are becoming attractive locales for displaced journalists.  Ron Wilson left UBM, voluntarily, several years ago to be editor in chief for Altera's content engine and before him, Mike Santarini took over the internal publication at Xilinx.  Last week UBM January detritus Silvie Barack landed as content manager at Atmel where she plans to launch a site similar to Intel Free Press very soon.  

What happens when all the advertisers begin to compete with EE Times, EBN, and EDN for content? When will TI, HP and AMD offer the remaining staff similar jobs and freedom?

Suddenly it starts to look like being a journalist is not the worst job in the world.


Death of Journalism Part 3: How it changes mar com


To sum up our series today on the death of journalism as we know it, there is less and less independent analysis from the free press due to budgetary constraints.  Consumers are relying more and more on online content, especially video, to make their decisions but they still want objective content.  Businesses that understand this are turning to ethical journalism and sponsoring it directly to establish themselves as trusted sources of content.  The tech world is taking baby steps in this direction.  Xilinx and Altera hired former print journalists to manage in-house publications sent to current customers.  Cadence Design took a step further hired a journalist to manage blog content specifically to promote the companies products and services, but the efforts focus only on current customers.

Larger companies, like Pepsi, offer a section of the website devoted only to pop culture, not products.  Digikey, in contrast, offers industry news by respected journalists, but they keep the content proprietary and littered with promotional material diluting the potential for building trust.  Pepsi, however demonstrates the viability of their approach showing data that their section is driving sales, engagement and consumer loyalty.  

 Steve Rubel of Edelman wrote recently in a Linkedin article that companies who want to succeed in the new paradigm of information need to adopt a “newsroom mentality.” That means creating content that your audience needs to hear/read rather than what you want to tell them.  That’s a tall order for most marketing-minded executives who cut their teeth on Web 1.0 and still can’t figure out Facebook, which is why finding communicators with deep journalism roots can be the key to success.

 In the next year, companies that stop navel gazing are going to be the next market leaders, and it all comes down to what they do with content.  The press won’t be there to help them do that.  Time for a reality check.