Advertising revenue for the traditional means of mass communication, television, radio and print, is declining, causing drastic page count reductions and staff cuts. The major publications in the electronics industry are no exception. Limited page counts, not to mention staff, makes it increasingly difficult for journalists to answer the question: Does the potential news affect a large enough audience to be worthy of coverage?
Currently, that means many startup companies are not going to get the attention they once received. The model for technology news coverage is still unsettled and it will be for some time to come. The question is, in the current landscape, what’s a startup to do to attract attention and reach its core customers?
Several new publications are springing up to fill the information gap. One of those new kids on the block is New Tech Press, published by Footwasher Media in Redwood City, California.
The absence of traditional advertising makes New Tech Press different from other publications [OR: New Tech Press differs from other publications in its lack of traditional advertising]. Instead, the companies New Tech Press covers support the publication’s content. That content is designed to provide information about small technology companies with under $50 million in revenue. Intel and Microsoft will never be covered in this publication. New Tech Press is specifically focused on the areas of EDA, fabless semiconductor, embedded technology and alternative energy.
“Most industry publications focus primarily on the big guys – and let’s face it, to survive, publications have to cover news that's important to the largest portion of their readers," said Lou Covey, editorial director for New Tech Press. "Then there are 'industry telephone poles,' where people can post pretty much whatever they want. But readers want objective news and analysis and they are not being provided to the small companies of the industry right now. That's a large underserved market."
Covey said New Tech Press focuses specifically on that market. "Our content is 100% original and objective. We are nearly the only place left where small technology companies can get independent, third-party validation from well-known, respected journalists."
Not everyone is convinced that New Tech Press can remain objective with its content being sponsored by the companies it covers. Mike Santarini, senior editor at EDN, expressed his doubts in a September blog. Freelancer Peggy Aycinena followed up in her blog that same month with a blunt, "Nobody will be mistaking that coverage for independent editorial content."
It is notable that their comments came weeks before New Tech Press produced its first issue.
"I understand the skepticism," Covey responded. "We're trying to establish a new way of doing things and not everyone is quick to embrace new ideas, but we believe there is room for the way it's always been done, and also for something else.
Covey described that new way as "objective advocacy," a phrase New Tech Press is trademarking. He said the sponsors of the publication obviously benefit directly from the coverage, but if the articles are not objective, then they add no value to the market conversation. "The success of New Tech Press depends upon the truth," Covey countered.
One of the major challenges for any new publication is going to be how it builds readership numbers. Covey said his publication will make extensive use of RSS feeds, and he has multiple informal partnerships with established media centers. New Tech Press shares its articles with those centers at no cost. Each center's editorial staff reviews each article before deciding to publish to maintain quality control of the news.
"But if you focus on the numbers you’re missing the whole point," Covey warned. “The concept with New Tech Press is not mass marketing via huge numbers. We are targeted at audiences that want to purchase the sponsors’ products, with objective reports from a well-known, respected journalist.”
According to Brian Fuller, VP of digital content at Blanc and Otus and former EE Times editor-in-chief, "Lou’s proposition may work in the current media environment. It’s better than a press release, but companies will have to tighten their sphincters and realize they won’t be able to vet the content as they would in a traditional, custom-publishing model. As always, we shall see."
The new publication will focus on three types of stories: profiles, trends and podcasts.
The company or technology profile details the founding of the company, its technology direction and the markets it serves. A technology profile goes into detail about the company's specific product development, the problems it solves and its features and benefits.
The trend story involves two or more supporting companies with interviews of the companies’ leadership. Here, the editor goes into greater depth than in a profile and may also report on other, non-supporting companies involved in the trend, but does not interview those companies. The article’s content spotlights the supporting companies.
The final feature is an audio or video podcast. This is a 5- to 10-minute interview with a company spokesperson derived from a profile article interview or a trend interview, or created as a standalone piece. The topic can be recent news, commentary on the state of the industry or other business news.