State of CORPORATE media

When I started this blog it was dedicated to following the movements of journalists from one publication to another in the electronics world. That was over a decade ago. Now I cover a lot more than that but I think it is fascinating that the movement of journalists is noteworthy not because they are moving to a new publication, not that they are moving to an corporate job, but that they are now moving from one corporation to another.
At the 52nd DAC (where exhibitors appear to be down 15 percent from last year) the news of the acquisition of Atrenta by Synopsys was eclipsed by word that Brian Fuller, editor in chief at Cadence Design was moving to take over content strategy at ARM ltd, and Richard Goering, dean of EDA journalism, was officially retiring.

When I started this blog it was dedicated to following the movements of journalists from one publication to another in the electronics world. That was over a decade ago. Now I cover a lot more than that but I think it is fascinating that the movement of journalists is noteworthy not because they are moving to a new publication, not that they are moving to an corporate job, but that they are now moving from one corporation to another.

On the show floor was all kinds of rumors about who will fill the gaps at Cadence, which has become something of a model for content strategy under Fuller's direction. Early favorites appear to be John Blyler, recently "liberated" from Extension Media and Dylan McGrath, currently blocking the newsroom exit at EE Times (Yes, I'm being snarky. Tepid apologies).

ARM's decision to hire Fuller is momentous as it may herald an era that they will actually invest in staffing rather than just technology, but it will be an uphill climb, and more than it was at Cadence where some of the trailblazing had been done by Goering and then by the late Anna del Rosario who brought a real vision for modern communications strategy to the company. The foundation she and Fuller laid will serve whoever comes in well.

ARM has a greater depth of subject matter to draw from than Cadence, however, which draws 90 percent of it's revenue from tools (OK, maybe less, but still a lot). So that depth may help Fuller breakthrough the bureaucratic logjam there. It's definitely a challenge that Fuller can take at least two out of three falls.

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.


Cadence and Bruggeman: Saw that one coming

A few months ago I wrote that life was not all goodness and light in the Cadence marketing world, but that seemed to be a false prophesy with the presence of EDA 360 all over the Design Automation Conference in June.  Today it was announced in EE Times that Cadence marketing wunderkinde John Bruggeman had abruptly left the company, as the company reorganizes its marketing effort once again.

Kinda reminds me of what I was saying even earlier about what happens when engineers make marketing decisions.

So it seems that Cadence is moving away from the big vision to expand their markets and go back to "the Cadence that wants to keep building increasingly complex tools for a shrinking and unrewarding market," as EE Times editorial director Ron Wilson said.

Then again, maybe we are seeing preparation for the sale of Cadence.  Could be...?

Communication takes another hit in EDA

Disturbing, though not surprising news out of the EDA industry this week.  I've stated a few weeks ago that Cadence has been going through another round of culling in the marketing departments and last week I learned that Synopsys, too, has been quietly downsizing marketing (why market when you're number one and your competitors aren't even trying).  Haven't heard a peep out of Mentor, but with Carl Icahn barking at their heels they have other problems... and Magma cuts it's marketing budget every year so that's nothing new.

None of that is disturbing, though.  At a recent company meeting in Cadence fairly recently, the executive team did a panel presentation on where the company was heading.  My sources (confirmed twice) reported that after the presentation, one brave soul rose to ask someone to clarify the vision for the company (because it just wasn't clear in the presentation).  Charlie Huang, chief strategy officer took the microphone and said, "We are going to follow the same strategy we have had for the past 20 years..."

And not a peep from EDA360 guru John Bruggeman. 

The entire premise of EDA360 is that business in EDA has to be done differently and it is a premise I completely agree with.  I've said before that I thought the philosophy Bruggeman brought to Cadence was bold while not entirely original, but definitely a direction Cadence and the rest of the industry needed to consider seriously.  I've also had my doubts that the powers that be and have always been in Cadence -- and the rest of the industry -- would ever allow the vision to see reality. 

The vision of EDA360 was pretty sweeping.  in Bruggeman's own words:

"First, the EDA and semiconductor industries have until now focused on design creation. With $100 million development costs on the horizon, there will be far fewer creators. Many designers will become integrators who make heavy use of pre-designed IP [intellectual property] to build SoCs and systems. EDA tools so far have only addressed creators, and this must change.

"Second, EDA until now has primarily focused on helping creators overcome the productivity gap. This work must continue, but what integrators are most concerned about is a profitability gap. Closing this gap requires new tools and approaches that can reduce design costs and bring in more revenue.

"Third, design going forward will be driven by apps. People will start with the applications and then build, or source, highly optimized hardware/software platforms. The traditional approach, in which hardware is built first and software and applications are tacked on later, has become too inefficient and costly. Thus traditional design tools and methodologies must evolve, and EDA360 will accomplish that."

So, doing things as you have for the previous 20 years...? Not so great an idea.  And yet, that is the plan.

I'm not picking on Cadence, just to be clear.  The entire industry's vision is sclerotic.  The EDA360 team came in with what was, essentially, a revolutionary approach to make the industry grow again.

But all of this is still not the disturbing thing.

The disturbing thing is that I have know some pretty amazing marketers and communicators in EDA and just about all of them have given up on the industry and are leaving.  Some, who are out of work now, have resolved never to return.  That means the ability to communicate with the market is leaving the industry altogether.  That's not good.

EDA is an important industry, but it's not set for growth anytime soon with the current leadership.  That makes Icahn, possibly, its savior... as distasteful as that may be. 

Semiconductors: Where is the innovation?

You may have noticed that I have not been talking about marketing and media in EDA and semiconductors for a few months and I've been struggling with how to talk about it for some time.  It's finally reach a head, though, so I might as well say it.

Innovation in the semiconductor sector is so rare now that it virtually does not exist.  That may be why no one in the semiconductor industry, outside of the giants, does any marketing.  But then, if you don't do marketing you won't know what needs to be innovated.  Vicious circle, that.

I've had a love/hate relationship with EDA and semis for a long time.  I've always thought they were incredibly important sectors and a source of great innovation.  I've worked with some of the most innovative and groundbreaking companies in both sectors and I always hoped to be a part of it.  But in the past few months I've come to understand what the VCs, entrepreneurs, government agencies and regional development agencies have been trying to tell me.  There is no longer any there there.

In the past year I have seen three significant innovative technologies absolutely crushed because their market -- semiconductor design and manufacturing -- was just not willing to change how they do things.  All they want to do is "reduce respins."  That's it.  Every VC I talk to has told me for the past three years that they know of no one in the industry that has a good idea anymore.  What's more, they tell me, all the truly innovative people in the EDA industry have left it for completely different niches.  

Last Wednesday I was attending a panel on worldwide innovation, sponsored by Silicon Valley Link and Eurocal Group.  On the panel were executives from SAP and they were discussing how their company encourages innovation within and without.  A lightbulb came on.  these guys said their company doesn't set a budget for innovation.  Their entire culture is based on innovation and as a result innovation happens.  By contrast, EDA and semiconductor guys brag about the percentage of their budget dedicated to R&D and, as a result, they just make incremental advances on 20-year-old technology.

So what I have seen in the past few months is where all the innovation is coming from.  And it is in software, not hardware.  Apple has been successful in creating software-enabling platforms and when they could not find a semiconductor company to listen to them and make what they needed, they went out and bought a couple of them.  Problem solved.  Don't need EDA at all anymore.

Cadence is making noise about innovation through software with their EDA360 program. I wish them luck, but the rank and file of the industry doesn't get it.  I know because I have talked to more than 60 EDA companies this year, desperately searching for some start-up that gets it and none of them do.  i have found maybe three semiconductor companies that get it, but they can't get funding... because the VCs know that the tools they need don't exist.  Even EDA Analyst Gary Smith says Cadence has a hard road in front of them because they lack the tools to make the vision happen, and no one is funding innovation in EDA so where will the tools com from?

So is this a bad thing?  Not really.  I've also been finding companies, that are getting funding, that are figuring out how to deliver functionality on off the shelf-hardware or letting their product reside on the cloud.  The semiconductor and EDA worlds are quickly just becoming a convenience store to technology; a place where you drop in when you need an overpriced bottle of milk at the last minute.

So I have found the innovation centers I have desperately wanted to support.  I will still look fondly back to my technology roots and will even take a meeting now and then, but the world has passed my old stomping grounds by.  Time to move with it.

Cadence's take on social media

I spent sometime chatting with Jim Price and Dan Holden who are managing the social media program at Cadence Design.  Cadence has  been involved in social media and networking longer than any other EDA company, starting with the online version of CDNLive, and one of the more experimental, including their relationship with Xuropa.  I have to give them kudos for their willingness to explore as well as make a place for traditional journalists in their efforts.  I'll let you listen to this edited version of the conversation (it was 30 minutes long) and will be making some comments in a few days.

Cadence social media

Looking at the upside of DAC

I just finished four days of audio podcast recording at the 2009 Design Automation Conference and, in accordance with my contrarian nature, I thought there were a lot of good things.  Let's look, first, at the numbers.  Officially, they are up, but they don't add up, and when you look at the show floor you know things were going south.  I talked to 10 companies, who didn't want to be quoted, who admitted that if thing don;t turn around in 6-9 months, they will not be back at DAC next year.

And yet, in all of that there was hope.  

Bob Gardner of the Electronic Design Automation Consortium talked to me briefly about the changes they will be making in promoting the show.  The details were sketchy but just the fact that they are looking at doing something different ... anything different ... is a move in the right direction.  The DAC committee worked hard to present some new and interesting "knowledge niches" in the conference (that's what I called them) related to software, green technology, etc. and there was some interesting discussion around the floor.  Chatting with Gary Smith (the podcast with him will go up in a couple of weeks) on Thursday he made the comment that it seemed like there was a sense of community that has been lacking, and I could completely agree with that observation.

It's almost as if the industry has finally woken up and realized sitting in the same place, doing the same thing is not going to give a different result.

There was buzz on the floor about what Cadence was doing with Xuropa, what Synopsys was doing in social media and what Magma was doing about it's finances (it's really a positive thing.  I had a great talk with Greg Lebsack, the new CEO at Tanner EDA, who is planning on raising the visibility of that 25-year-old enigma of a company.

And what was really important is the very serious and productive discussion about the state of the media, including bloggers that was going on everywhere.

The industry seems to be waking up, and I give the DAC organizers credit for providing the forum for it.  Next year it's in Anaheim. Ugh. Well, I guess it can't be all good news.