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Moore’s Law Meets the Trade Press

EE Journal Turns 11

We live and work in an amazing time. The global community of electronic engineers has created the greatest leap of technological progress in human history. In the almost fifty years that Moore’s Law has existed, the number of transistors we can put on a single chip has risen from fifty to somewhere around twenty billion. That is a truly amazing achievement. And the power of that almost unimaginable feat has rippled and ripped through just about every aspect of our lives and our culture.

As the creators of that change, we have faced a unique challenge. While the rest of the world gets to enjoy the fact that electronic technology doubles in capability every two years, electronic engineers are faced with the harsh reality that we have to double our own productivity on that same schedule. Moore’s Law becomes our mandate. I am aware of no other profession that requires a constant exponential improvement in worker productivity just to stay in the game.

Today, you, the readers of EE Journal, must be able to design twenty times the number of gates per day as you could have eleven years ago when our publication launched. That is an exceptional challenge. Luckily, you have new tools and technology that allow you to keep pace with that demand – assuming you understand how to use them to maximum advantage. Engineers are in a constant state of re-education. We have to always be learning, as fast as we possibly can, in order to keep up with the state of technology and remain relevant.

At the beginning of this century, the electronic trade press was dominated by weekly and monthly print publications. As an engineer, I was excited to get the latest copy of EE Times each week in my inbox. It was a hefty, newspaper-format rag, filled to the brim with the latest news and analysis and packed with full-page advertisements for the companies who wanted to reach the global audience of electronic designers. EE Times informed and inspired me in my engineering career. It connected me to my profession and was an important tool in my own efforts to constantly re-educate myself.

Electronics companies maintained multi-million-dollar advertising budgets, and that money flowed down through the trade press ecosystem. Like any business, publishing is a matter of percentages. A percentage of revenue went to editorial – to create the content that made each publication relevant. A percentage went to produce and distribute the publication itself, and a percentage went to sales, to pay the sales people who brought in the advertising revenue in the first place.

Then, Moore’s Law hit the trade press.

With the rise of the internet and electronic distribution, the cost of getting a technical article or news story to the eager eyes of an engineer dropped exponentially. At the same time, internet giants like Google revolutionized the delivery of advertising, and that dropped the market rates for ads by several orders of magnitude.

In the same way that the cost of a single transistor dropping by a factor of a billion changed the electronics landscape, the precipitous drop in the cost of information distribution and advertising rates re-formed the trade press. Unlike the changes in the electronic world, however, the change in the trade press was not always beautiful. Just as engineers were challenged to take advantage of the latest tools and technology to create an exponential increase in their productivity, publishers were challenged to take advantage of new capabilities in electronic distribution to make their own businesses exponentially more efficient.

Most did not.

The challenge of taking a large, established organization with a long history of producing a successful print publication and re-engineering it to be 100 times leaner and more efficient was gut-wrenching for many of these publishing companies. The first, knee-jerk reaction was to cut costs, and the seemingly-logical place to attack was the editorial department. After all, that was the one part of the organization that was not directly involved in the generation of revenues. Massive layoffs and reductions in editorial budgets followed. Many print publications eroded to tiny shadows of their former glory. Most stopped publishing print editions altogether.

At EE Journal, we were lucky. We were founded at a time when it was clear that print in the trade press would become no longer economically feasible and that it would inevitably die. We never had a print offering, so we never had the burden of dismantling a large and established print-centric publishing team and trying to re-form it into the new electronic reality. It is far easier and more exciting to build and grow a small and innovative organization from the ground up than it is to try to reduce and re-imagine a large established one in the face of a major disruption in the business climate.

Sadly, as many established publications threw ballast overboard in a frantic attempt to stay afloat, they inadvertently tossed out one of the key principles that gave their publications value in the first place: Objectivity.

At EE Journal, while we have always quickly embraced the latest bounty that technology has to offer, we have always held the principle of objective journalism as sacred. We believe that our editorial mission is to serve you, the audience. You need to know that the information and analysis we provide is the most objective and critical we can produce, and it isn’t swayed or biased by sponsorship or advertising revenues. Our instructions to our editorial team are simple: Write the objective truth to the best of your ability, with the full benefit of your experience and expertise, and without regard to any business or advertising relationship that the publication may have. Of course, we have advertising and sponsored content in our pages; it’s how we make a living. But we are very careful to always label sponsored content, to identify the sponsor, and to keep a firewall between that content and our own editorial viewpoint.

This is the polar opposite of the current trend known as “native advertising.” The fundamental principle of native advertising is to deceive the audience. Successful native advertising convinces the audience that they are getting objective, unbiased information – when in fact they are consuming carefully constructed marketing messages. Native advertising can be seen in many forms, from the “independent” blogger who is actually paid to write about particular companies to “content marketing” that is slipped in with ordinary editorial writing – with the sponsors’ interests carefully concealed.

EE Journal will never do “native advertising”. (Arguably, with the exception of articles like this one – which could be said to be “native advertising” for EE Journal itself.) Our editorial serves you – our audience – and our advertising and content marketing serve our sponsors. It is a proven formula that has worked for decades, and nothing about the internet revolution has changed that equation.

It is worth pointing out here that truth and objectivity are not the same thing. Any company can create a completely truthful and useful piece of content about their product, their market, and their customer challenges. That content cannot, however, be objective. You will never see a company publish an article highlighting the competitive weaknesses of their offering, documenting their strategic mistakes, or explaining why their competitors’ products may be better than their own. That is the domain of objective journalism, and “native advertising” and “content marketing” will never go there – even though they may be produced with the utmost honesty, integrity, and skill.

For the past eleven years, these principles have worked well for us. Each year, we have grown audience, grown revenues, and grown relevance in the industry. We are now read by over a quarter-million engineers worldwide. We are a publication created by engineers for engineers. As such, we understand that we, too, have a Moore’s Law mandate, and we must continue to improve and evolve, to be more effective and efficient, and to take advantage of the latest technologies and techniques in order to remain competitive and useful. We believe firmly in the concept of objective journalism and will always strive to adhere to that ideal. We will not always be perfect in that quest. Our editors are human and subject to our own biases, inconsistencies, and insight failures. But we promise to always do our best.

That, presumably, is why you are reading EE Journal.

With apologies to Charlton Heston racing through the streets of a post-apocalyptic city shouting out his epiphany… EE Journal is people.

EE Journal is three groups of people, actually – our team, our audience, and our sponsors, and I want to offer a sincere thanks to all three. For, without all three we would not have achieved what we have over the past eleven years. Thank you for an amazing first decade, and we look forward to serving you all even better in the years to come. It will be an adventure!

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