Ten years ago, we had a vision – a vision of a new kind of trade publication: one that was completely digital; one that gave top-quality objective analysis and editorial on the electronics industry; one with a personality and a sense of humor that made professional engineering articles fun and interesting as well as informative; one staffed by people with firsthand experience in the engineering trenches and deep knowledge of the industry.
Then, we said, “Nah,” and created this one instead.
OK, kidding aside, this is our ten-year anniversary and we wanted to at least build a little digital bonfire and sit around it talking about the old days when we did three-micron tapeouts with actual tape, and when we put green magic marker around the edge of our software CDs in hopes of reducing the number of bugs. (Hey, if it was supposed to make CD music sound better, worth a try, right?)
If you haven’t been reading us for all ten of those years, here’s a very brief history. Back in 2003, we launched our first publication: “FPGA Journal.” Two years later, we added “Embedded Technology Journal” to the mix. Next, “IC Design and Verification Journal” joined the fold. Then, we decided it was time to go big or go home, so we rolled all of those together and added a bunch more to create the “EE Journal” that you are enjoying right now. (If you’re not actually enjoying it at this moment, try to smile and pretend so we don’t notice.)
During that time, our staff has grown from two to three to four to … ten or so? (We’re not completely sure how many people we have now – we keep finding ones we forgot about between the sofa cushions). Kidding aside again (we keep trying to put kidding aside, but it just doesn’t stay there), we are a virtual company that has never had a physical office. Our entire team telecommutes every day from whatever location they choose. While that may sound like a lot of fun (and we all think that it is,) that sort of job requires a special breed of person. Our people need to be independent, self-motivating, organized, disciplined, and flexible. It’s hard to find people with the right qualities and skills to succeed in a 100% telecommuting job. Once you find them, however, you’ve got a whole team made up of independent, self-motivated, organized, disciplined… Well, you get the idea.
Back in 2003, we were one of the first all-online electronic engineering trade publications. Several of the print publications had started to dabble in online, or had a digital version available, or were straddling both print editions and websites, but what we were doing was scary and new – putting all our eggs in the digital basket. Since then, the online world has exploded and evolved radically. Print publications have declined dramatically or gone out of business altogether. The social media revolution has changed the dynamics of the internet. The exponential growth of the mobile market has changed the way people get their information. Or, to put it another way, all the cool technology you all have been developing has kept us on our toes.
Over the past ten years, EE Journal has grown explosively. Today, we are happy to be read by over 230,000 people worldwide – most of you engineering professionals. As a group, you have generated some of the most amazing progress in the history of mankind. We are humbled and honored that you give us some of your time, attention, and trust.
While the speed and efficiency of digital delivery mops the floor with its paper-based predecessor, the business of online advertising is an enormous departure from print. Companies that wouldn’t think twice about dropping five- and six-digit sums for a print ad in a weekly trade rag were horrified when the much-more-measurable results from their $1K online campaign showed that only a tiny group of people were responding to their messages. Competitors like Google dropped the going price for web-based ads so low that it would be absolutely impossible for a special-interest, focused publication like an engineering trade publication to bring in enough to actually pay its staff.
At the time, thousands of would-be web publishers shared a bright vision. “Hey, I could just put up a nice website, drop some Google AdSense advertising zones on there, and sit back and watch the cash roll in!” Then, after a few months, the cash WOULD start to roll in – to the tune of three or four bucks per month from sugar-daddy Google. “Huh, that didn’t work so well.” Doing some quick math, these burgeoning business boomers realized that they’d need a few million visitors per month to earn anything like a working wage for one person from their websites. Want to count the number of electronic engineers on the planet? (Hint: It’s way smaller than “a few million”) While this Google situation didn’t make any of these energetic entrepreneurs rich, it did drive the expected price for online advertising down to near-zero for anyone hoping to run a business based on it.
Why the lesson in online economics in the middle of what should be a nice “Thank you” article to our audience, advertisers, and staff? Because you wouldn’t be reading this without what comes next, and since most of you are engineers, we understand you want to know how the machine works.
In order to survive and thrive, we had to come up with a win-win-win scenario for ourselves, our audience, and our advertisers. For the audience, our vision was clear. We wanted to produce the highest-quality content possible, make it informative, entertaining, engaging, and (most of all) objective. We have worked hard to bring you that for the past ten years, and from that mission we will never waver. We believe you read us because of the original content we publish. Unlike many websites, we decided not to follow the easy path of becoming an aggregator for other online content, or to rely on contributed articles to hold your attention. Our fundamental belief is that good, objective, original content is the only way to maintain a long-term relationship with you, our wonderful audience.
In order to keep ourselves in business, we have to generate enough revenue to pay everyone and to keep the virtual printing presses rolling. That means we have to offer high-performance, cost-effective marketing services to our advertisers – without violating our commitment to serve our audience with unbiased, useful content. Obviously, looking around the site, you’ll see that we sell banner advertising. What may be less obvious is that we’ve firmly resisted the push for the more intrusive forms of online ads – roadblocks, pop-overs, pop-unders, pop-tarts (wait, that last one isn’t an actual ad type… yet.) We want to maintain a pleasant experience for visitors, and we deemed those ad types “too annoying” for you. You’re welcome.
You’ll also notice that we provide “content marketing” services by hosting white papers, videos, webcasts, and a wide variety of other sponsored resources in our “on demand” section. We believe that these are very useful assets with a wealth of valuable technical information. We also want there to be a very clear line between these sponsored pages and the objective, original editorial that we provide. If it’s sponsored, we mark it “sponsored.” You’ll never be reading an article here and having to wonder whether there is a company behind the scenes pulling the strings.
Our prices for these services are quite a bit higher than what Google charges for AdWords, or what Facebook charges to market to their audience. The reason for that is you. You are a much more valuable audience to electronics suppliers than the multitudes of random internet denizens they could reach through those channels. Our advertisers want you to design their stuff into your stuff. So, if their stuff is good, please use it. It’ll help to make your project successful, and it’ll also help to keep you in reading material.
We’d like to thank you – our audience, our sponsors, and our team for an incredible ten years. We’re looking forward to the next ten. Our continuing promise to you is that we will always strive to give you the best, most insightful, most engaging content possible – from an objective point of view, through whatever medium works the best for you at the time. Whenever you guys finish the technology that lets us beam info directly into your brain, we’ll give you that option as well (except for you foil-hat guys, of course. We wouldn’t think of crossing that line.)
Thanks again to our awesome team – Laura Domela, Amelia Dalton, Bryon Moyer, Jim Turley, Dick Selwood, Shirley Rice, Larra Morris, Ari Decherd, Karen Simon, and many who have helped us get to this point – Kayla Kurucz, Brenna Switzer, Amy Malagamba, Clive Jones, and numerous others.