June 2007 Archives

About a week ago, people working for electronic design automation (EDA) companies got a nasty surprise. EETimes had decided to lay off the leading journalist writing about EDA. Over 17 years, Richard Goering developed a formidable reputation in the sector to the point where if he didn't write about something in EDA it probably didn't happen. It was part of a larger programme of layoffs at publisher CMP Technology that also led to the departure of editor-in-chief Brian Fuller.

Across its IT and electronics publications, CMP is losing about 200 people. However, EETimes took some heavy hits. The EDA people, in particular, did not respond well to the cuts, understanding that the journalist who put the subject of EDA on the front page many times would be gone by the end of June.

"Are regurgitated press releases the future of EDA 'news' now?" asked engineering consultant John Cooley at his Deepchip site, which has become the best water cooler for chip designers currently online. At that site, Gloria Nichols of Launch Marketing, a PR, wrote: "I am trying to figure out how we are going communicate EDA's 'value' to the outside world when our independent, credible sources are shrinking."

However, Vitalcom's Lou Covey, another PR, pointed out an uncomfortable truth: the publisher did not see EDA coverage as a generator of ad sales. In a conversation with one of the managers at CMP, he was told: "Lou, we can no longer support industry segments that fail to produce a discernible revenue stream."

The Design Automation Conference (DAC), normally held somewhere on the West Coast of the US in June each year, is the only technology conference I have attended where one of the fringe events is a session that attempts to bring together hacks and flacks in the same room. It's all meant in a spirit of togetherness although, if you read the transcripts from previous years, the undercurrent of hostility is pretty clear:

[From a marketer to a journalist] "And who nominated you? Who elected you to be an advocate for the engineering community? You don't have the right to be an advocate for anybody. You should be an advocate for the truth."

This year, a cheer went up from the crowd when Mike Markowitz, marcom at STMicroelectronics aimed a jibe at the other panelists: "All I've been hearing this morning is a lot of self-serving information". His fellow panelists were all from the media side: two journalists, a guy from a sponsored-podcast network and another running a website.

Hard to reach

23 June 2007

This is a depressingly familiar telephone conversation:

"I'm glad I've got hold of you. You're very difficult to get hold of."

"Am I? Why?"

"I've been trying to call you, but this is the first time you've answered the phone."

"Did you try leaving a message? I didn't get any voicemails from you and it's a bit difficult to return a call if I don't know who's calling."

"No, I didn't leave a message."

"So why are you telling me I'm hard to reach?"

"Er..."

This kind of episode annoys me more than it should, but it's surprisingly common for me to get back from a meeting and check the caller ID on the phone to see the same numbers come up time and again from PRs who, frankly, are never going to get in touch because they won't leave a message. This, apparently, goes down in the reports prepared for their clients as "attempted to contact".

As Charles Arthur pointed out recently, asynchronous communication works very well with journalists. Try using it: leave a message or, better still, send an email. That way, I'll know if you are trying to get in touch with me and it doesn't matter where in the world I happen to be: I can pick up phone messages more or less anywhere, which is why I don't tend to publish my mobile number widely. Channelling Uri Geller, on the other hand, is not nearly so effective.