Media Landscape For Engineers

My new boss was chatting with me in his office. He turned to a shelf with notebooks and pulled one off the shelf. Opening it to a tab, he removed a section and told me to copy it and start my own notebook.

The contents were articles clipped and copied from trade press, B2B, magazines. He had given me a new position as program manager in product development. These were articles on project management and program management. This was my introduction to the trade press.

I subscribed and read a variety of publications over the course of the next 20 years collecting useful articles. Some of the magazines were quick reads. Articles were by people whose titles were “marketing manager” with the contents reflecting that point of view. Some were written by engineers or other practitioners with useful information.

When I became a trade press editor at Control Engineering in 1998, the media landscape was unchanged. It consisted of magazines delivered by the US Postal Service on a more or less regular basis.

Wow, but do we have so many ways of getting information these days. There remains the inevitable tension within the trade press of writing what advertisers want to see in print versus focusing on useful information for readers. Information availability moved rapidly from print to Web to email to Twitter to LInkedIn and Facebook.

Advantages and deficiencies

Web–I always had trouble “bookmarking” Websites to return to and read. Or to develop a regular system to go to my Websites to read what was new. It was usually impossible to see what was new, anyway. On the other hand, the Web is a great place to store large amounts of information whether for media companies or for technology suppliers. What I have always desired is a push notification telling me not only that something changed, but also directing me to what changed.

Pop-up ads and enticements, pop-overs, cluttered pages, proliferation of ads all serve to destroy my motivation to go to media Websites to read articles. The race to create as much ad revenue as possible has reached the point for me that I hate to visit to try to read an article.

You also have to beware the “listicle” article. Many devices are designed to get you to click–top 10, view three ways, here are 6 things you didn’t know about. Sometimes they even make you click each one individually. Know why? The publisher needs to improve page views and therefore ad impressions. I have mostly quit getting suckered in.

What I will do is go to an “advertiser” site for a good technical or business white paper or other such information. Today you are more likely to get the kind of information there that I used to copy into my notebook. Oh, and today, my notebook is Evernote.

Twitter–Initially a great conversation tool, now there is so much noise that I seldom look at the stream. The tools I used to sort through the flood often were killed by Twitter. This killed much of my enthusiasm. I still Tweet. Some people actually find them.

Email–Believe it or not, emails remain the best way of notifying people with reasons to visit a Website or otherwise send information. Maybe someday there will be a ubiquitous chat app (Messenger or Snapchat or Slack?) that would take the place of email–but wouldn’t it just be another form of email? In the meantime, it’s not email but the misuse of email that is annoying.

General media–I’m seeing many more articles in Forbes, The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and other such general media publications that once would be seen only in trade press. Coverage of the Internet of Things, for instance, may be stronger there, as well as coverage of safety and security.

The Future

For the curious, check out the recent Notifications Summit put on by a couple of technology luminaries John Borthwick of Betaworks and Steve Gillmor who is a long-time reporter and analyst of technology. Many hours of video were recorded. They were great presentations and conversations about the developing technologies and uses of notifications.

Start with John Borthwick.

Or go to TechCrunch and search for Steve Gillmor.

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3 Responses to Media Landscape For Engineers

  1. Carl Henning December 1, 2015 at 12:07 pm #

    For Twitter I use Hootsuite. I have a search pane always open for a compound search; e.g., “Profinet OR Profibus”. I have another pane open for Mentions and one for a list I created at Twitter. I found myself following too many, so I created a short list of “must reads.” That’s how I can find yours easily.

    I still really like RSS feeds for sites that I want to always be updated on (which is how I knew about and read this article).

    • Gary Mintchell December 1, 2015 at 5:19 pm #

      I was trying to do Twitter only from my iPhone. That is very awkward to manage. I also tried with my iPad, but I am using the iPad less having just acquired a MacBook Air (weight in my backpack was the consideration). I wish Twitter would make things easier, I guess.

  2. Jim Cahill December 2, 2015 at 6:16 pm #

    Gary, Like Carl I’m a big fan of Hootsuite. I have a dashboard with list of editors/analysts/trade press brands, another with Emerson experts, and several with people in our world of process automation–customers, other suppliers, industry-specific, etc. Also some hashtag searches around #PAuto and #ISAuto to get a flavor of the conversations going on. I check it a few times each day looking for opportunities to engage. I also find my LinkedIn main page valuable to see what all my connections are sharing.

    I know I’m at the extreme edge of all this, but I think Hootsuite with a couple of columns of lists and hashtag searches can provide a quick update on some of the news and expertise which flows from people in our niche world.

    Thanks for a great article!

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