Dr. Dobb's closes ?! Say it ain't so.

Yesterday came the news that UBM is shuttering the venerable Dr. Dobb's Journal as the Brit-based corporation continues its inexorable exit from technology journalism. I know it shouldn't be surprising but this one hits close to home... literally.

I was out of J-school for about a year, working part time for a local daily newspaper and desperate for a full time gig.  I heard about this new publication started by some Stanford geeks that was just a short walk from my parents house, so I decided to go down and put my resume in. Of course, I had no idea what computer programming wa so there wasn't a chance in hell of getting a job there, but I walked my resume through the door anyway.  I never did get a call.

But through the years, DDJ grew up with me in the world.  I learned alot about technology through its pages, both in print until 2009 and then only online.  When they were acquired by UBM, though, I knew it was only a matter of time.

As Andrew Binstock, the last EiC, stated, UBM isn't in the business of running publications for the sake of informing the world anymore.  Publications are for supporting events and tradeshows in the UBMirverse.  DDJ becomes obsolete in that world.  Sorry to see it go.

Dylan McGrath leads an army of UBM exiles

Went to ARM TechCon to connect with a few fans and meet some new people (certainly wasn't to find some news because there wasw very little of that, although I did find a few nuggets).  I was pleasantly surprised to see Dylan McGrath stroll by and learned he is now managing edityor and Electronics 360 at IHS, which is fast becoming the new UBM for tech news.  I've been reading some of their pubs the past few weeks but never really paid attention to who was writing the stuff.

So I got home and looked up the staff masthead and was knocked backward to find almost all of the veteran EE Times editorial team there. In addition to Dylan there's Bruce Rayner, editorial director; and contributing editors Peter Clarke, Rick DeMeis, Tam Harbert, P.B. Hyman (the first EiC of EBN), George Leopold, Bill Schweber and Nic Mokhoff.  It's like a freaking reunion of the Golden age of CMP!

And that explains why it's such a fun publication to read.  Check it out.




Getting a vision for content strategy

The vision of the market most companies have is akin to a many walking toward a cliff holding a full-length mirror in front of them. Everything looks great until they run out of land.

I got some interesting feedback on my post regarding UBM’s #EELive event both negative and positive reactions.  I said I would have more to say on this and here it is.

It’s not UBM’s fault if your industry conference goes bad.  It’s yours. 1604823_10152277488286358_62258750_n

UBM fought the good fight to deliver to B2B industry what it needed, which was an independent source of news and analysis for many years.  About five years ago, it decided to give their customers what they demanded, which was a place to repeat the same marketing collateral they send out to their customers, both on line and in person.  UBM found this a much more profitable business as they saw their marketing services eclipse editorial in revenue.  Today, editorial brings in about 7 percent of the total revenue and trade shows generate a whole lot more.  As a result, UBM Tech CEO Paul Miller declared a couple of years ago the company was not longer a media company but a marketing services company.

Focusing on events and marketing services allows the company to pivot quickly whenever marketing budgets change.  If a conference they run starts to cool off (and EELive is so cool they are moving to Santa Clara Convention Center next year) then UBM will switch to hotter industries, like computer gaming (Game Developers Conference), where exhibitors and participants can listen to their own messaging.

The vision of the market most companies have is akin to a many walking toward a cliff holding a full-length mirror in front of them.  Everything looks great until they run out of land.  They need someone to point out that a cliff is coming; someone they trust… like an independent journalist. Tom Foremski over at the Silicon Valley Watcher has been calling for a return to the good old days when corporations financially supported an independent press.  I’d love that, too but it ain’t going to happen.  There are too many senior executives running corporations who don’t remember what a robust press was all about.  They can’t see how anyone who lives off of advertising revenue can be objective.  Over the past 20 years, I think they may have a point, but that’s an entirely different discussion.

What they do understand is that customers are not accepting marketing messages and I’ve written often about why that is.  All conferences work off the same mailing lists from the previous year with very little change, UBM’s included. It is an echo chamber of marketing.  That’s not the fault of the vehicle but the fault of the content.  The content fails because it’s going in the wrong direction for the most part.  There are customers out there who want to know how you can help them, but first you need to know how to help.  That comes from conversation and that is not what is happening at the conferences.

Foremski is right; industry needs independent vision, but we’re past the point where that vision can be provided external to each corporation.  The corporation needs a journalist, acting independent of marketing and sales, providing insight to marketing sales and even the C-Suite. 

More to come. 

Don’t want to wait to figure out how to get on track. Call us at Footwasher Media for an analysis of your content strategy … before you go over the cliff.

Truth is relative in today's media, but that's about to change.

Much of what is happening in media, both in independent publications and in-house publications, is focused only on a single perspective and the financial investment in producing a multi-faceted approach is not welcome.

In this third part of our series on truth and trust in content, let’s get down to some nitty gritty and see how stuff is playing out in B2B tech media.  In the first two installments on this series I talked about the importance of finding truth in coverage, which requires a multi-faceted approach, not just truth from one perspective.  Unfortunately, much of what is happening in media, both in independent publications and in-house publications, is focused only on a single perspective and the financial investment in producing a multi-faceted approach is not welcome.  Let's take the gorilla in the room (IBM Tech) as an example.

I’ve written extensively on the changes at UBM Tech this past year and, most recently, some of the blowback I’ve been hearing not only from sponsors but potential sponsors as well.  There have been some responses from the UBM Tech team correcting some of the reports, but most of what I’ve written about (as well as plans to expand the program company wide) were confirmed a couple of weeks ago in an interview with UBM Tech mucky-mucks Paul Miller and Adrian Barrick in MediaBriefings.com.

In review, UBM Tech is downsizing is editorial staff, mostly senior people, and turning over the content development to mostly unpaid bloggers from sponsor companies.  The content is to be reviewed by less senior editors and the most egregious marketing fluff is to be screened out. Here’s Problem No. 1:  

As UBM Tech adds more content to the flow, the already overworked editorial staff  has less time to do proper screening, more fluff will get by.  

UBM Tech has been pointing to the fact that they STILL have a team of excellent journalists producing content for their publications, demonstrating they highly value those skills.  It’s true.  Junko Yoshida, Rick Merritt, Patrick Mannion and whoever else might be there (I’ve noticed the EE Times staff list page has been taken down, but you can still see the editors at EDN.com) are still formidable writers.  That brings us to Problem No. 2:

 See Problem No 1.  UBM Tech is requiring their editors to focus more on the news coming out of events, which are funded by sponsors and exhibitors and they are increasing the number of events, increasing the workload on the remaining journalists on the team... which has been causing valuable editors to leave (e.g. Brian Fuller and Alex Wolfe) for corporate jobs ... which has forced UBM Tech to hire journalists without significant experience in B2B Tech.

 Now before you get all up in arms to defend UBM Tech or to agree that it’s a horrible organization.  Let me point out that they are no different from any other organization.

I was having a discussion with a corporate manager recently who said he valued content production.  I asked him if he was paying more or less for content than he was 5 years ago.  The answer was less.  Then I asked him if he was getting more or less content production than he was 5 years ago.  He said more.  So I told him that it’s a great thing to say you value a particular skill, but when you require greater production at comparable or less pay, that immediately devalues the skill.

And this is especially true in every media corporation.  From tiny to large, the value of content creation is diminishing.  People want more, because while content is king these days, they demand the cost to be less.  That has a direct effect on the trustworthiness of the content.

This may be good financially in the short term for publications, but it is bad for the long term and it is not good for their audiences in general who are figuring out that content may be growing, but actual information is lacking. 

All is not lost, however, because good things are happening and we’ll get into the positive side of this in the next post.

Google algorithm changes game for sponsored content sites

Last Friday I posted about the major overhaul in Google's algorithm that is going to cause headaches for SEO consultants and practitioners.  Over the weekend, as I was thinking about it, I realized it is going to cause even more problems for media companies and corporations moving to a branded content methodology.  

Lots of media companies, including UBM, Extension Media, Hearst Electronics, Open-Systems and Tech Design Forum are moving to a curated community model where editors spend most of their time managing the content of the community rather than developing original content.  It sounds like a great idea because the plan is that the best stuff (most read, most shared, most commented on) will rise to the top of the community and the least engaging will drop to the bottom.

The problem is that most of that content has been vetted by marketing and sales companies to make sure the messages get across, and not according to what customers are actually looking for.  Some media companies, like UBM, actually put filters on the content so it doesn't show up in Google searches, only within the medium's sites.  The content on these communities is not going to be found easily, if at all, unless the searchers are in those communities.  And that is getting very fractured right now, especially in the semiconductor realm,

This week, Ed Sperling dissolved his partnership with Extension Media creating sponsored subject portals within Extension, and has moved them under his own brand, Semiconductor Engineering (www.semiengineering.com).  Ed was one of the first to jump into the sponsored content concept in this industry (which Footwasher Media helped him understand, ahem).  He was followed by Kevin Morris' Tech Focus Media, The Curation Company, UBM, Hearst and a host of smaller operations.  They all develop content, they all have different means of developing content, but they are also not funded by advertising.  They are sponsored by large companies who get to have input into the subject matter produced.  Most of these sites make it easy to see who is funding them and once you see that, you can see where their influence is.  Some, like SemiWiki, don't really let you know who is funding them, but you can guess from the tone of the articles.

The problem with these highly focused sites is their audience is very focused and, therefore, very small.  The audiences for Hearst and UBM are potentially very large, but they run into the same problem as the smaller sites


To be successful online, a publication has to engage the audience, which means the readers/viewers have to be willing to read the entire article, or a large portion, comment and share.  If they don't the content will not be searchable in Google unless the content contains the exact terms that the audience uses in search.  For a company like UBM that filters much of it's content from Google, the audience has to rely on the UBM internal search engine, which even UBM'ers say sucks.

Then there are the branded-but-independent corporate sites.  That's another post, coming soon.

Are you trying to make sense of all this communication theory.  That's our business. 

Contact us and let us help.

The final word on UBM Tech... for now

My posts on the changes at UBM Tech have been the most popular on this blog since I started it.  Lots of people have weighed in on whether it is good or bad (most say bad) but I've tried to remain neutral.  I'm maintaining that neutrality, especially after talking to UBM Tech CEO Paul Miller last week.

Miller has said to me several times in the past couple of years that UBM is a marketing company, not a media company.  In last week's chat he took it to another level.  "UBM Tech is, effectively, out of the magazine business.  We are now running online communities."

There have been several comments from people still in the media business expressing doubt that UBM properties can be considered ethical, reliable, trustworthy "real journalism," etc.  But the answer to all of those concerns is... it's not a media company anymore.  Trying to measure the UBM business model against traditional journalism is like determining distance with a measuring cup.

A few weeks ago, Joe Basques wrote that companies need to change their perspective to understand their market.  I submit that everyone looking at the new UBM model needs to change their perspective as well.  Paul Miller said, in essence that UBM was giving up the journalism field of competition to Hearst, Extension Media, EE Journal and all the others, not because they didn't think it was a good business to be in, but that it had become such a small part of the UBM business that it mattered less than the direction their communities were going did.

Paul even wished all his former competitors well and considered them a valued part of the information ecosystem that engineers needed.  But they are no longer what UBM considers competition.  Who are they competing against? Their old foes Reed Elsevier for one, who abandoned the journalism business for the event business as well a few years ago.  What UBM has that Reed doesn't however, is the online communities.

Another competitor you might consider is Google itself.  And here's why.

Google recently changed it's search algorithm to diminish keyword (the core of SEO practices) and focus on engagement: what people are reading, what people are commenting on and what people are sharing.  That means they are actively boosting what the users are interested in.  That is, essentially, the UBM model now.  What was known as the editorial staff are now community managers and brand managers whose primary job is curation.  Armed with a powerful new technology these managers can look at what content provider and content is getting the most play and their job is to feature that content in the community.  The managers will develop content, but that's not their primary job.  Readers who actively comment and make valuable input will be invited to become regular contributors.  Sometimes that will be paid, more often it will not.  The readers will make the ultimate decision as to what rises to the top of the medium, not journalists.

This is significantly different than what we know as traditional journalism.  It may fail spectactularly or it will succeed spectacularly.  Whatever you may think of it, Miller and UBM are taking a massive but calculated gamble.  "We're pretty positive about how this will turn out, but it is admittedly very different.  However, when you look at traditional media, the odds for success are not very good. We wish all who remain the best of luck, but something different has to be done.  We think this is one way to do it right."

I am currently working on a white paper that looks at the current state of the media in the 21st centur.  It will be available in a few weeks, but we aren't giving it away free this time.  If you want it, we need to know if you are the right person to get it, or if you can get it to the right person, If you aren't one of those, get your credit card out.  This one is too good to give away.

Kevin Morris and I hash out the state of the media... sort of

A couple of weeks ago I started talking about the changes at UBM which has opened up a torrent of comment and readership on this blog.  Almost doubling the audience.  That's good.  


Kevin Morris, nice guy

What's even better is that people are really talking about how journalism and

Lou Covey, S*** Disturber

media is changing.  


To be honest, most of the comment has been negative, mostly about UBM, and mostly from competitors and former employees.  Little of that stuff was publishable and after contacting most of them, they all withdrew their comments (Yeah, I'm a nice guy).  But there were some very productive responses and a couple were from Kevin Morris, editorial director of Tech Focus Media.  


I emailed Kevin directly and we made a date to talk about it face to face at the Design West Conference in San Jose.  I made my first Spreaker broadcast from it.  And away we go...


Alex Wolfe is next to leave UBM Tech

How long can they last?

Alex Wolfe is leaving UBM Tech. Just heard it from two sources (neither of them Alex).  Don't know where he's going, but it is a major coup for whoever grabs him. 

Alex has been, for a long time, a stalwart of electronics journalism.  He broke the story about the Intel Floating Point error.  He's been edior in chief of Information Week, Design News, IEEE Spectrum.  My first trip to Manhattan was specifically to meet with him, face to face, with a client because the client considered him the most important editor to meet. That's why he's risen as high as he has in the UBM organization and why his loss to them is going to be pretty devastating.

The word is everyone on UBM Tech is sending out resumes if they aren't getting offers,  If you look at the EETimes masthead you see 44 editorial positions.  One (executive editor held by George Leopold) was eliminated in January. Both positions for EBN are now gone (Wolfe and Brian Fuller), six are duplicative (they hold down other positions), and I count 11 that are on contract and have other duties outside of UBM.  That means 24 of the 44 are staff members, dedicated to developing and managing content.  They're good people.  How long can they last?

The UBM decision to merge media with events is not a bad idea.  It is possibly a good idea.  But you can't make anything work unless you have people to do the work.

UBM Tech starting to show the strain

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?

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.

UBM Tech kills print, makes killing in events

Yesterday, UBM Tech officially announced the death of all print publications with a couple of small exceptions, in favor of a new global strategy that merges content with events.  This is a sea change for the electronics design industry and brings up a lot of questions.

First, some details.  There will still be publications like EE Times, EBN, EDN and Information Week, but they will all be online.  These publications, however, are no longer publications but “communities” where information is shared and discussed under the eye of content managers...which used to be called journalists.  These managers will still be developing original content on the sites, but that content is meant to drive readers to additional content placed by sponsors...which used to be called advertisers.

 Here’s where it gets interesting.  All this content is focused on one direction: the events that UBM puts on including Design West, ARM Tech Con, DesignCon, the Black Hat Conference and hundreds of others.  Why are they doing this? Because advertising in print has dropped to 8 percent of their total revenue per annum and revenue from events is growing by leaps and bounds.  Currently, UBM is number 4 in the trade show industry behind Reed Exhibitions, Messe Frankfurt, and GL Events.  Interestingly enough, Reed sold all of its print and online publications a few years ago, several of them to UBM.  But UBM is integrating those publications into their events business now which creates a massive promotional engine for their events.

 Several years ago, UBM Tech CEO Paul Miller told me that UBM will soon not be a media company but a marketing company and it seems the transition is complete.  Apparently, UBM even killed EE Times Confidential, the subscription-only publication that Miller had crowed about to me as recently as January 2012 as an example of how a magazine can be run profitably.  The last issue I can find is March 2012 and the last article on line is a wrap up of ARM Tech Con from October.

 (That’s a little embarrassing for me because I’ve been using EET Confidential as an example of how people will pay for good content.)

 This move has significant implications for everyone.  If you are a startup company hoping to get a few lines of decent press from a UBM “content manager” then you will need to be spending some money on at least one of their trade shows; or you will have to start looking at one of the media companies that still serves your niche.  And many of the latter are developing their own niche communities where the sponsors hold sway over the content...and in many cases create themselves.

 If you are a media company, a door of opportunity has just swung wide open for you to fill the gap with independent content, or at least a repository for sponsored content that doesn’t come with a big trade show price tag.

 Any company that wants to get their story out into the world is going to have to learn how to create compelling engaging content or be overwhelmed by competitors who do.

 Is this a good move for UBM? I think it is.  The media world would have loved to continue being sources of unbiased content, but no one wanted to pay for it under that paradigm.  Now, to be successful, companies are going to have to be concerned with developing that content themselves, and companies like UBM are going to profit from that.  So is everyone involved in real journalism.

 It’s a sellers market for journalists now.  Evolve or follow the Dodo.

Want to start developing effective content for the new paradigm? Call us.

At UBM, the Times are a changin'

One last note about the changes at UBM... there will be more.

 I mentioned in the last post that the recent layoffs were due to redundancy more than finances, but one thing I left out was whether there was redundancy in the publications.

The question in my head was, “Is EE Times going to go away?”

Here's my reasoning.  EDN and EE Times were major competitors for years, now they are in the same family and covering much the same thing.  In fact, some of it seems to be covered in Design News.  EE Times was kept alive when EBN was shuttered and took over much of what EBN covered.  Now EBN is back.  The in depth coverage that EE Times was known for has been put into EE Times Confidential.  So with the reasoning that the layoffs were to eliminate redundancy, wouldn't it make sense to fold the remaining staff into EDN and EBN and just shutter EE Times online?

I put the question point blank to UBM CEO Paul Miller.

“I actually see this differently. EE Times is the community gathering place and we will move it increasingly towards a full on community model – it generates millions of monthly page views and thousands of registrations and it is the key brand in the industry. EDN is the place to go for engineers who need help doing their job – they want it from peers. EDN and EETimes are very complimentary.”

It makes sense from that perspective, however...

I’ve seen healthy rivalry in the past two years building between the various staffs of EDN, EBN, EE Times and even Design News for content.  I also remember what management said several years ago when I asked if EBN was going away.  They said, “No, of course not,” and then 6 months later it was gone.  They weren’t lying to me then and I don’t think they are now.  That is just how fast realities shift in the media world.  Everything is under constant evaluation and no one should get comfortable.

The dust hasn’t quite settled at UBM Electronics.  Fuller needs to beef up his own staff et EBN and I’m sure there will be some changes in the masthead at EE Times as well (have they ever updated that thing in a timely manner?). So pay attention.  The times, they are a’ changin’....

Trade show approaches need some imagination

Trade shows, especially trade shows in the technology world, have been the bane of my existence for a couple of decades. I hate them and think they are a terrible waste of money. That doesn’t mean I think they are useless, but how companies use them makes them so. I almost think there should be a minimum entrance requirement.
In the past couple of years there have been some changes that give me hope.

One is the introduction of social media into the effort and the other is specific focus. UBM seems to have discovered that secret.
UBM’s Design West conference in 2012 served as an umbrella for seven different conferences, ranging from Android development to sensors. Attendees could focus directly on their interest, rather than wander about over several days trying to figure out what to do. The recently concluded ARM TechCon, run by UBM and heavily sponsored by ARM, broke up the three day conference and expo between semiconductor design and software/systems design bringing in completely different audiences. This allowed exhibitors the opportunity to target resources to the right audience. Both of these models are steps in the right direction, because it forces companies to prepare properly, but I think we need to go even further and step right into the workplaces of the customers.

I started this line of thinking when I saw this video of a doctor talking about the need of continuing education for medical professionals and how that can be accomplished best by going into where the professional work.


The beauty of this approach is It takes less time and the content becomes highly focused.Ten years ago this idea was unheard of simply because of the sheer logistics of sending out personnel to multiple locations to present papers and demonstrations.

Five years ago it was impossible to do the same thing virtually over the internet. But combining the two now makes the potential of the virtual trade show a real possibility and at a fraction of the cost of current trade show budgets.

For example, the average exhibit space at a low end trade show, like the Design Automation Conference, is around $7000 for 200 sf. Now you have to add to that the cost of the booth exhibit ($10K), signage ($2K), drayage, monitors, presentation development, public relations, catering, electrical, etc. and you are easily out $30K for a low-cost exhibit effort. For two to three days you hope to meet with 100 (but would settle for 10 truly qualified) leads that have been attracted by the single, 10-minute, generic, committee-designed presentation. Of course, you won’t get that many leads because companies that spend 10 times the amount you spend will grab all the attention.
But for the cost of the exhibit space alone you could create 30 minutes of interactive video presented online (as in the above example), gather qualifying data from the engagement and then be able to afford to send personnel directly to individual companies for face-to-face meetings.

Does this mean trade shows are completely useless? No, not at all. Imagine what your trade show effort would be like if you knew exactly what your potential leads were looking for. Imagine setting up your booth for the purpose of closing deals, rather than having a booth-babe spout an informercial script. Imagine a 10x10 booth where potential customers came with questions at the ready, rather than have to drag it out of them at the end of the presentation. Imagine a trade show that wasn’t a complete waste of time.

That’s all that’s lacking from industry wide meetings: a little imagination.

The filters of good content

Continuing on with our discussion about good content, I've come across some fascinating data regarding how customers in the world of semiconductor design are consuming it and what it means for social media.  Let's start with a poll taken by a company I've been consulting to in recent weeks.

The company wanted to get some attention from a select segment of customers.  The company estimates that their entire customer base consists of a few thousand people worldwide and they only need to reach a small part of that to be successful.  So they were looking into ways to best reach them.  Good content was a given in their estimation, but how to create that content and how to deliver it most efficiently was the question.  They had an assumption on what would be the best path that I questioned so I asked them to do something: talk to your current and potential customer about where they get their information.

I've asked my clients to do this for many years, but no one has ever done it.  They prefer to stick with assumptions.  I was stunned when this new company took me up on the idea.  And they went about it with a scientifically significant sampling.  What they discovered verified what I was telling them about the media, but also came up with some surprising results even for me.

What was not surprising (to me) was that the publications they thought about targeting with their content barely registered or did not register at all with their audience.  What was also not surprising was that EE Times and EDN were a virtual tie for first. I generally lump these two together since they are both UBM products and generally serve the same audience though for different purposes (more on that later).

What was mildly surprising was that Chip Design and Design-Reuse.com came in tied for third and that John Cooley's DeepChip did not register at all.  I actually thought that the three would be much closer, but as I thought about it, what Chip Design and D&R focus on is generally a much higher level in semiconductor design.  That's a significant bit of information (more on that later, too.)

What knocked me out of my seat, however, was what came in a solid second.  


I've been following Linkedin for quite a while.  In fact, it was the first social media platform I ever got involved with.  However, until the past couple of years, it just kinda sat there in my browser bookmarks.  That changed in 2010 when I was able to help a client make a contact with a significant potential customer using my Linkedin contacts.  In that process I discovered groups and now belong to and, in some instances, moderate 31.  Some people have called my involvement scattered and can't imagine being able to follow that much, but the results of this survey showed my Linkedin involvement is not that remarkable.  The respondents stated they get their dose of news and opinion from 20 or more different groups.

But none of that information is actually original content.  It's based on content that group members have screened and found valuable... from places like EE Times, EDN and Chip Design.  

In my last post I said that readers are using social media to filter content.  This is a perfect example of how they are doing it.  They are relying on peers and trusted sources to scan through the content and then endorse it.  Most of the groups have moderation filters in place (people like me) who look at suggested content first before allowing it to be disseminated.  The content comes from other trusted sources (like Chip Design and EE Times) and then can be commented upon by members.

And because Linkedin has carefully adopted the image of a businesslike site, you don't get a lot of socio/political spam.

Linkedin was, at one time, the realm of HR managers and job seekers.  It still is very much that, but it has morphed into much more.  It has become a curation site for business information and, as a result, has become an increasingly important channel for  organizations that develop trusted content.  

There have been a few articles recently talking about the fiscal value of Linkedin over Twitter and Facebook.  Part of it is that Linkedin doesn't just get revenue from advertising, but also from subscriptions and job listings, keeping the overall cash flow positive. But the fact that it has proven valuable to business more than developing casual acquaintances has also kept it's stock value high (106 for LI vs 21 Facebook at this writing).  It has kept is focus much narrower and is therefore more broadly valued.  In that point let's go back to the issues of EETimes/EDN and Chip Design.

Fractured vs Focused Readership

The survey showed, as I said, that EE Times and ECN were in a dead heat for readers, which doesn't bother UBM at all, but the respondents said something interesting about EE Times: they approach the massive amounts of content in many different ways.  Some read the newsletters only, some just one or two DesignLine pages, some the weekly digital version, some the videos, some the online front page.  One even mentioned EE Times Confidential.  The audience for EE Times is highly fractured.  They can claim total readership in the millions but with so many channels, the chance that the content about your company will reach the eyeballs of your target audience is just a crap shoot.  Not so much for EDN, however.  The driving number of EDN readers say they go directly to EDN.com for their content and move from there.  So getting front and center there means you get more potential readers for your material.  The downside is it is tougher to get through the editorial filter of EDN than it is for the multiple channels of EE Times.

That being said, channels like Chip Design and D&R give access to a much more select audience focused on issues more specific than EE Times and EDN, and the name of the game in media for high tech is not quantitative but qualitative (Point of order, the survey showed that everyone who reads Chip Design and D&R also read UBM content).

Companies need to look at media non-exclusively. You can't rule out the big media names and you can't assume that just because you like a style of writing that everyone else feels the same way.  My consultee was considering putting all their eggs in a single media bucket because they assumed that the bucket was the best possible choice.  A careful consideration can demonstrate that obvious choices are not necessarily good choices and the best choices are those that take time and effort to foster.  Social media can help, in a big way.

The back door to online success is good content.

I was listening to an NPR program last weekend about the success of sharing sites, like Buzzfeed.  It opened up with the statement that "it used to be the key to success online was success in search..."  Going forward the program succinctly laid out how important of search in modern internet communications strategies.

Not very.

The program went on to talk about how sharing, or even "borrowing" content is the new key to success... even if it wasn't quite honest.  Point taken.  However, the discussion brought to mind something I've said over and over (and that seems to be making progress in the minds of some) that real, honest, sharable content is what will bring people to your website and do business with you.

Page rankings are important to companies that are selling iPhone aftermarket accessories and boner pills.  They are also important to large corporations who want to make sure that no one sees links to the lower tier competitors.  In the latter case, the larger companies spend a lot on SEO to keep the competition at bay.  Take for example, Xilinx and Altera, both of which spend a lot more money on SEO efforts than does a company like Lattice, which spends relatively little.  In the end for SEO, that's all it takes: Money.  If you have it you win.  But that does not mean you get more business, necessarily.  It just means the search spiders will find you more often and push companies with less investment down.

If your goal, however, is to actually create connections with willing customers, improve the quality of your content.  That's why sites like Buzzfeed and Reddit are going gang busters.  They find out what people like to read, watch and listen to and they get that stuff up.  That's also why most firms in the semiconductor world are generally disappointed in what their web programs produce.  They make no effort to pay attention to what their customers are paying attention to.

There have been many websites that have tried to put together a successful program rehashing the marketing content of the industry they serve with limited amounts of success.  Amazingly enough, the sites that continue to thrive are those who maintain a certain level of separation from the companies they cover.  EDN's relaunch recently is a good example of a company listening to what the readers want.  Conversely, it looks like their parent company, UBM, has also figured out how to make money off of giving the companies what they want in the new "Community in a Box" program.  We'll have to wait and see which does better.

 In our own back yard, however, we've seen first hand what creating sharable content can do for a corporate website (boosts it every time) and what happens when they switch back to product announcements (crash and burn).  I'm happy to say that the more companies we talk to the more they are realizing that putting most of their eggs into boosting marketing content and SEO is not creating the business they were hoping for.

If you are among those companies starting to get it, drop us a line.

The Curation Company: Open playing field vs. walled garden

The Curation Company, through it's news site the Tech Design Forum will provide the guides, news and articles (maybe video, too) and put them all together... and only for the IC design community.

B2B media, after a decade of trying to hold back the tide of change, is finally moving with the times, redefining what journalism will look like for the next 50 years.  Both the good news and bad news is we still don't know what works...although we are getting closer.  UBM, Hearst and Advantage Media have all rolled out new formats and features on their various sites this year; personnel have been added, dropped and reassigned.  

For UBM alone, it seems their online strategy is paying off  About a year ago, CEO Paul Miller told me that their online revenue had finally reached parity with print, partly because print revenue continued to decline and partly because online revenue was still rising.  The annual report in February showed that while print was down 22 percent, online was up almost 28 percent, giving the marketing services division an overall increase of 4 percent revenue increase and a profitable year.  In today's media industry, that is damn good. So UBM may be figuring this out.

There are, however, other options.

At the Design Automation Conference in San Francisco, three highly respected British journalists unveiled a brand new media company with a business model that may, no, make that will make marketing folks with weaker imaginations a bit confused... so pretty much everyone.

A new twist on journalism

The Curation Company, headed up by Paul Dempsey, Chris Edwards and Luke Collins (look 'em up on LinkedIn if you haven't heard of them and if you haven't where have you been?) is looking to take journalism ultra-social.  As simply as I can put it, the idea of their offering is to create all the same things engineers are using now individually, connect the hell out of them and make it possible for readers to continue the connections, share what they found and make the content, the links, the listings and the participants part of a larger, organically growing medium.  

(That is close to what Footwasher Media is all about, except we are only concerned about the content and it's connectivity.  We are completely agnostic regarding the platform, which is why we work with UBM, Hearst, Advantage, Extension and anyone else that wants our content.  And now we will also be working with the Curation Company, so that's nice.)

To get a little deeper, pretty much all B2B media in the electronics world provides buying guides.  They also provide news.  They also provide contributed articles.  They also provide advertising and webinars and trade shows, etc.  What they don't do very well is tie all that information together.  Sometimes they connect parts of it and sometimes they link stuff back to people who are paying the bills.  It's still all pretty scattered.

The Curation Company, through it's news site the Tech Design Forum will provide the guides, news and articles (maybe video, too) and put them all together... and only for the IC design community.  If an engineer is looking for a piece of IP or tool in the guide, he will find links to articles and news that might tell him how to best use it and what works well with it.  The engineer doesn't have to search through multiple publication sites or do umpteen Google searches to figure out how do do his work.  The Curation Company will do all of that for you.

How much does it cost? Nothing to the user.  The Curation Company is taking a page out of the Footwasher Media plan and will only do sponsorships... no ads.  Yes there will be banners and graphics linking back to the sponsors, but the only reason they are there is for transparency, so everyone knows who is paying for what.

The walled garden

UBM is doing something like this with their Community in a Box (CiaB) product, which has actually won awards for its innovation.  The problem with the concept is it perpetuates the "walled garden" concept that so many other companies are working on, including Synopsys, Mentor, Cadence, Xilinx and Altera in the EDA world.  

The purpose of these "communities" is to provide their users with a wealth of information and expertise... on how to use the site's host company products.  No one else can play in their garden.  These are expensive and manpower intensive efforts that smaller companies cannot afford to run on their own.  UBM steps in and provides a complete community with content and manpower and the sponsor of the site has control over what is said and who can play.  Extension Media has a similar program run by Ed Sperling.  The problem is that very few engineers or engineering teams work exclusively in one vendor's garden.  They want to see how other tools and products work, so they have to go outside the garden and figure it out on their own.  The vendors want to keep them from doing that and I say, good luck.

Walking around DAC I heard a couple of conversations that showed UBM's effort was causing some consternation and ill-will, but it sounded more like sour grapes from people who just didn't want to pay for their own participation.  The Curation Company, however, is not planting a walled garden.  The concept of sponsored content doesn't really work well unless everyone can participate.  So "Company A" can be a sponsor of the program and will still see content about "Company B" on the site and in comparison in content developed in Tech Design Forum.  

There will be those that balk at participating on a level playing field.  I've already run into sponsors that got upset because the content we developed would reference competition positively.  The problem with that attitude is that it is anti-competitive.

Imagine if the SF Giants decided they really didn't want to allow the LA Dodgers to play in AT&T Park and instead played the San Jose Class A Giants dressed in Dodger uniforms.  Are you going to believe this is a league game?  Hence the concept espoused by The Curation Company.  Customers are going to be more likely to believe what is going on in an open field than a walled garden.

Now, that isn't to say the CiaB concept is a bad one.  Communities open primarily to current customers is a good way to build relationships, but it's a lousy way of opening the field to new customers.

So that, in the end, is the good news.  There are new concepts in communication out there.  They all have their place.  The question is: Which works best for you?

DAC 2012: Still flat

The numbers came out for the 2012 DAC attendance and, as usual, the organization reported "record breaking numbers," but still wasn't putting it in context.

Total attendance for 2012 was 7,388 up from 6,350 last year in San Diego.  That's great.  But it's still down from 7,996 in 2009 when it was in San Francisco last...and during a worse economic period.  Subtracting booth personnel, exhibit only and full conference participation was 4,684 and in 2009 it was 5,299.  Booth staff was up this year by about 100 over the 2011 conference, but everyone really noticed the massively reduced floor space.  In 2009, DAC took up Moscone North and South but the whole show was spread out liberally over only the south hall this year.  And there was a nice size bowling alley between the meeting suites in the center.

So as I pointed out last year, DAC remains flat, at best.  There was, however, a phrase that had never been used before in the press releases: "Biggest Event in Electronic Design." Oooo, really?

What else is there?  Well there's DesignCon that has seen 30 percent growth year over year since UBM took over after the 2009 show. 2012 had 4500 attendees - still a far cry from the 8,000 at DAC this year - but they seem to be gaining.  And since an average of 35 percent of the attendees each year claim that it was the first time attending DesignCon, the show might actually catch DAC in about 3 years.  What about ESC/Design West, which I believe can qualify as an electronic design conference?  Can't find numbers but it took over the entirety of the McEnery Center in San Jose, as well as the Civic Auditorium.  There were also no meeting rooms down the center of the hall.  

DAC is a great technical conference and the exhibits help defray the expenses of putting it on, but it might be a good idea to consider going back to it's roots and just focus on the technical portion.  Next year it's in Austin.  Good luck finding a seat on one of the few flights going there direct from the Bay Area.

Maybe engineers need to grow up

When you've been in the communciation game as long as I have, you want to run, screaming, from the room when a marketing guy says, "We really don't need much media coverage.  Our customers are engineers and they all talk to each other.  So we just need to reach a few of them."  I swear, if I had a dollar for everytime I heard that I'd be an angel investor (who could fire a long of marketing guys).

So when UBM TechWeb CEO Tony Uphoff tossed out a Facebook link to an article on word-of-mouth marketing I was immediately drawn to it.  I was surprised to learn, however, that the age group most influenced by word-of-mouth marketing are teenagers, while adults will use word of mouth early on in their shopping process but rely more heavily on media when they make their decision.

That immediately brought to mind the axiom above.  If it is true, that engineers make buying decisions based on what their peers tell them, without benefit of third-party input, than engineers have the research skills of high-school students.

I'm sure that's not what the marketing guys are implying.  At least not what they wanted to imply.  Maybe they should go talk it over amongst themselves.

There's media and then there's media, Finale

We live in a world that lacks both barriers and trust. While the rest of the world watches and shares what the corporate world and press produce, most of the producers are still trying to put some level of control on it. That is not going to change. Someone has to stand up and tackle the problem from a different angle.

In our last post in this series I stated that earned content isn't a sure thing no matter how much effort and cost you put into it.  That's because earned content -- news coverage that is beneficial to your cause, product or company -- has too many variable in the form of timing, resources within the news community and the interest of the general reading public.  Because of that confluence of variables, most companies don't approach public relations strategically but keep it in the tactical menu.  That's also why most PR efforts fail to impress the people that pay for them.

 That is not to say that earned media cannot be a strategic effort.

 Over the past decade, more and more companies have been pursuing a strategic earned media strategy by hiring laid-off editors and freelancers to run internal media efforts.   Some of the editors were not laid off but left because the money was just too good and others had been laid off for several months before the companies picked them up.  For example, Cadence, Xilinx and Altera have all hired editors that once worked at United Business Media and Reed publications.  This is a very good thing because these companies have recognized the skill and integrity of these journalists and want them to apply those attributes to their internal publications.  But there are two problems with these types of programs.

 First, most companies, however, cannot afford to make the expenditure of putting someone on salary and building an infrastructure around their work.  Second, the audience for the work is captive, existing behind the firewall with limited outreach. Furthermore, as much as the journalists creating the content are trustworthy, because the audience knows that this content is fully under control of the sponsoring company, it's trustworthiness is still suspect.   

 Remember that true earned content has to come from a third party.  Independent publications from media houses, like UBM, still carry the cachet of trust and therefore are more valuable. Even contributed material, like opinion pieces and press releases, can boost their integrity a bit by appearing in one of these third party publication... but they are not as trusted as the content created by an independent journalist.  That's still the holy grail for content... and it can be planned for and executed.

 For the past six months, Footwasher Media has been running a strategic earned media program for a public company.  In those six months we have created more than 60 pieces of content, with input from but independent of the sponsoring company, using the services of experienced and known journalists in the tech community.  That content has been shared with partnering media companies and published close to 200 times internationally.  The articles and videos have been viewed on the sponsor's site by more than 27,000 unique viewers (that's real people, not spider hits) and the partner publications have driven more than 4500 qualified leads to the sponsor.  The sponsor has stated that the content published has raised the visibility of the company among the international press to the degree that they have seen a serious increase in the number of unsolicited calls from the press in general.

 So how is it happening?  First, Footwasher Media has cultivated relationships with the press management over decades allowing a frank and open discussion of what is and isn't independent content.  We have dedicated ourselves to a standard of ethics that goes beyond lip-service and puts it in writing.  That creates a perception of trustworthiness in our relationship with them.  Second, our content is not behind a firewall, it's in the open and available to an audience larger than the  sales base of the sponsor.  Third, we work with the sponsor openly and honestly.  We tell them when something will or won't work in the program while remaining open to their suggestions.  We treat them as a source, first and foremost, not just, a source of income. Fourth, and finally, we act as a true intermediary in the discussion between the sponsor and the traditional press making sure both understand the needs of the other, not advocating for either.  Let's look at it graphically.

Polish.003 In the previous post I showed the relationship of earned, social, owned and purchased media, along with the levels of cost, effort and trustworthiness.  In this chart I add strategic earned media to the mix, placing it between social and tactical earned.  A strategic effort takes a bit more effort that tactical and costs more, but it drives up the creation of tactical and reduces the cost and effort that goes into tactical.  As a result, social, owned and purchased all get dragged closer to and in some case into the trust zone.

 We live in a world that lacks both barriers and trust.  While the rest of the world watches and shares what the corporate world and press produce, most of the producers are still trying to put some level of control on it.  That is not going to change.  Someone has to stand up and tackle the problem from a different angle.  That's what we are doing.

 It is a different way of looking at the exchange and dissemination of information to the world.  That's what it takes: open, honest, transparent and independent communication.

 And it works.


Mannion slides back to UBM from Hearst

It's like the good old days in B2B press with personnel leap-frogging from one  pub to another.  Patrick Mannion six months ago jumped from his post of editorial director of TechOnline at United Business Media to go take the newly created post of director of content at Hearst Electronics Group.Well, UBM thought that was a pretty neat idea and created a similar post for EDN and the Designlines.  Who would best fill that post then.... wait for it.... Patrick Mannion?

That opens a whole in the staff over at Hearst that's being filled temporarily by Murray Slovick on a consulting basis, while they look for a permanent replacement.

Director of content is a fairly new concept developed to handle the flood of information on the internet.  Where an editorial director sets policy direction for the editorial staff, the content produced by that staff is also under the supervision of the content director, whose job it is to coordinate and weave together that content with hundreds of blogs, white papers, contributed articles and outside news. it's a daunting task and something worthy of talking about.

Patrick, you up for it?

Holy crap! EE Times eats EDN!

News came in this morning that UBM is acquiring Canon Communications for $287 million.  That means EDN will become part of the EE Times Group, once the sale is approved by US regulators.

It was just last February that Canon bought EDN, Test and Measurement World, Design News and Packaging Digest off the struggling Reed Business operation, followed by an ill-advised layoff of Robert Cravotta, picking up Rich Nass from Embedded Systems and the defection of Ron Wilson back to EE Times.  At that point I was concerned about the future of EDN and T&M World because it was obvious from discussions within Canon that they really didn't understand what EDN was all about, even though they were a successful and profitable publishing company.

With this acquisition one might assume that EDN is not long for this world as they were an active competitor to EE Times, but a call with Paul Miller, CEO of the EE Times Group, this morning allayed that concern.  Miller sees the value of EDN as complementary to what EE Times is doing going forward and now they don't have to worry about competition for ad dollars -- which is what the rivalry was all about going back to the days of Electronic News.

This acquisition is good news all around for electronics media coverage of the semiconductor industry because it brings the best and brightest under one roof.  It's also good for UBM because it gives them a solid beachhead it the growing medical technology field.  It's not great news for advertising buyers though.  You're not going to be able to play of EDN coverage on EE Times to get a lower rate.

Time to start looking to your media buy budget, folks.