Virtually all innovation traces back to the semiconductor industry and the roughly $463B that will be spent on chips this year.
It stands to reason that the trade publications serving such a critical industry and one perpetually in the throes of change would thrive. Yet, like their trade brothers and the overall media industry, the electronics trades have experienced the same economic wrecking ball — the internet.
Out of these conditions, EE Times is not only still standing, but thriving.
From my vantage point, EE Times has been willing to experiment and change. Some things have worked. Some haven’t (hello, EE Times Confidential). The latest change involves a complete redesign of the online product.
Dylan McGrath, EE Times editor-in-chief, will talk about the redesign and the direction of the publication at an industry event on Monday, November 5, 2018, in Silicon Valley. It’s open to everyone, but seating is limited. If you’re interested in attending, check out the details to RSVP at the end of the post.
As a prelude to Dylan’s talk later this month, we conducted the following interview, and yes, I chose to stay away from the tired “Moore’s Law is Dead” trope.
Q) Thanks for making the time for this interview. How does it feel to be on the other side of the single dangling light bulb?
A) It feels great. I’ve managed to escape from journalism several times now, but I always manage to find my way back. Imperfect and challenged as it is these days, it’s still the thing I love to do most.
Q) A good place to start is with the redesign of the book. What was the catalyst for the redesign?
A) The catalyst was twofold. First and most importantly, as you know, EE Times was purchased in 2016 by AspenCore, which has gone on to amass the most comprehensive portfolio of pubs in electronics. Redesigns are going to take place across the AspenCore media network to, among other things, give us more cohesiveness. We are all under the same tent, and we need some consistency. Secondly, EE Times needed a redesign. From a cosmetic and functionality standpoint, it was overdue.
Q) I know you received considerable reader feedback for the redesign? What were the top one or two asks?
A) Well, we got a lot of varying feedback. A lot of it was readers asking us not to change too much. Change is hard. The single biggest thing we heard was that readers want us to continue to make it easy for them to quickly find the newest and most important stories. Readers are pressed for time – they don’t want to have to look all over the site for the news. We understand that, and we will honor that.
Q) A few years ago I wrote about the challenge for all trade media, not just EE Times, to reach a younger demographic. Is that one of the goals for the redesign?
A) That’s one of the goals for everything you do. As you know, that very much remains a challenge. I don’t know if our site will be more relevant to a younger audience now that it has been redesigned. Hopefully it will be more visually appealing for readers of all ages.
Q) Related to the above, if an engineer under 35 isn’t going to EE Times for information, where is he or she going?
A) We find that by in large the answer to that is social media and RSS feeds. Both of those avenues often lead them to EE Times. What I believe, though, and what I think the evidence shows is that they are less loyal in terms of bookmarking EE Times and checking it every day. Unlike older engineers who have been getting news and analysis from EE Times for decades, younger folks are using these tools to get the headlines they are interested in from a wider pool of media outlets. They seem to care less about the source.
Side note: I’m not an engineer, but have fond memories of those hardcopy issues of the EE Times that could double for weight training.
Q) You’re coming up on your two-year anniversary as editor-in-chief of EE Times. I’m sure when you took the reins you had some ideas on how to evolve the media property? How has that gone?
A) It’s going very well overall. I really enjoy the job. When I took it I had a very clear vision of what I wanted to do: give readers a place where they can quickly find a mixture of unique, proprietary features and timely news briefs that keep readers up-to-speed on the news of the day that is relevant to them and their jobs. For the most part, I believe that we do that very well. But there’s always room for improvement and evolution.
Q) I like what Junko wrote in launching the Frontline Dispatch: “EE Times is looking for real stories, not press releases.” Is it fair to say that’s part of the publication’s overarching direction, to deliver more in-depth reporting, analysis and insights from the field?
A) Absolutely. That’s always been part of our DNA. But more than ever before, we are planting our flag around in-depth reporting, analysis and insights with editorial initiatives like Frontline Dispatch and our Special Projects. We are interested in press releases only to the extent that we can tie what is being announced to what is going on in the broader context of the electronics world.
Q) We’re constantly putting the news release in that context for clients, but it doesn’t always register.
A) I feel your pain.
Q) Anyway, back to the Frontline Dispatch concept, it seems like this on-the-ground approach calls for the companies that make up the electronics ecosystem to give EE Times access. Is this a challenge since companies often aren’t keen for the outside world to see the “sausage making?”
A) Yes, it’s a big challenge. We want as much access as we can get, while companies for the most part want us to see and hear what’s going on through their slanted perspective. We are always fighting that battle. Frontline Dispatch will be partly or even exclusively made up of contributed submissions from engineers with boots on the ground. We want to report the real story from their perspective. Attorneys and PR departments will want to get involved to shape the message. But we want it straight from the engineers.
Q) I enjoyed the Peter Burrows piece a few weeks ago on Apple as a lead into the company’s Sept. 12 product launches. Most people probably don’t know that Peter started his career at Electronic Business in the late ’80s before going to BusinessWeek. That piece went out at 2000+ words and could have just as easily been published in Fortune. Two questions. How did readers react to the story, and do you plan to do more of it?
A) The short answer is that readers loved it and yes, we plan to do more of it. Frankly, that piece was longer than what we usually shoot for, but when it came back it was brilliant, so we kept it largely as it was. One of the great things about online, of course, is that we aren’t constricted by a certain-sized news hole. We can let it fly when there is good reason for it. And readers always respond favorably to these longer stories when they are on point. However, I’m also a big believer in concision. I think there is a real art to telling a complete story in as few words as possible. Our vision for EE Times is that it’s a place for both quick hitting news stories that you can read or scan while hunched over your computer, as well as longer, featurish analysis stories that you can read when you have time to put your feet up.
Q) Any closing thoughts on the direction of EE Times, your talk on November 5 or your latest guilty pleasure on Netflix?
A) I’m really happy with the direction of EE Times and the redesign. Our new editorial initiatives are very exciting because they not only give our readers more of what they want, but also let us do the type of journalism that we really want to do: telling real stories. I’m looking forward to the talk on November 5 and especially hearing feedback from readers in the Valley. As for Netflix, I am desperately trying to finish Season One of “Ozarks” so I can move on to Season Two. I heard it’s great.
Here’s the official invitation to Dylan’s talk.
Again, this is an industry event open to all.
Ask engineers to name their go-to publication. EE Times will top the list.
But like all publications in the digital era, EE Times recognizes that the status quo is not a sustainable business model.
With that as the backdrop, EE Times just rolled out a full-blown redesign. Think kitchen remodel X 10.
If you’re a communications professional or marketer who intersects with the electronics sector, you’re likely wondering what does this mean.
Glad you asked.
Dylan McGrath, editor-in-chief for EE Times, will provide color commentary on the redesign — hey, it’s football season — and share the direction of the publication on November 5 at 11 a.m. A Q&A session that’s sure to be lively will follow Dylan’s talk. This industry event will take place at The Hoffman Agency.
There’s no charge for the talk, but seating is limited.
Please RSVP to Jaime Hamilton at JHamilton@hoffman.com to reserve your seat. We’re going with a first-come, first-serve basis. Once the room is filled, we’ll stop accepting RSVPs and stay on the fire marshal’s good side.