MADISON, WI – In the electronics industry, any conversation with company spokespeople, marketing executives or ad men eventually includes two key words: “community” and “engagement.”
The industry wants a “community” web site, not site that features what journalists call “straight news.” The industry wants engagement with readers, customers and would-be customers. The industry wants to see continuous, vibrant and lively conversations among EEs on a daily, hourly basis. Above all, like Sally Field at the Oscars, the industry wants people to “like me!”
They make it clear that the days are over when news reporters would write a story and post it on a site followed by zero comments – a site defined by one-way communication. It’s the interactivity, it’s the conversation, it’s the crowd-sourcing, and it’s the engagement that makes a media company’s web site interesting and strong, and that’s what the industry values and wants.
OK. We got your message loud and clear. Call me naïve, but we took the yearnings of the electronics industry to heart.
A year ago, when we opened our new www.eetimes.com, we made sure that conversations among readers were front and center. While we, editors, strive to research and publish insightful news and analysis stories every day, we equally value the comments posted by our readers. We love seeing reader participation, and we enjoy getting involved in the conversations. Pick any story, and you’re sure to find gems among our readers’ opinions. It has become the place for us to take the pulse of our audience.
But here’s the thing.
Conspicuously absent from this on-going engagement at www.eetimes.com over almost a year is the voice of the vendors – the one whose passionate pitch for “community” and “engagement” got us into the conversation business.
While the guys with all the money continue to spout the importance of engagement, they seem to believe – for reasons unknown (because they’re not talking) that there’s no need for them to get involved in the community and bare their own souls.
It’s either they think they are above it all (Jeez, I hope not), or they’re fearful of the sort of controversial back-and-forth that sparks “engagement” and knits together the “community.”
Readers responded immediately, expanding and fueling the speculation about Intel and TI. But it wasn’t ‘til almost 23 hours after the story was posted that a TI public relations representative finally sent McGrath an e-mail and denied the speculation in no uncertain terms.
We appreciate TI’s getting in touch. Who could help but feel flattered?
But this is wrong in two levels.
First, if OMAP isn’t up for sale, TI should have said so as soon as the McGrath story hit the streets (or, better yet, before, when he tried to solicit a comment from the company on the rumors). We stood ready to set straight the facts, but we needed TI to be straight with us.
Second, again, if the speculation was totally off the mark (which apparently it was, based on TI’s response to us), TI had an ideal forum – our website – to correct the record, 23 hours sooner than they did through the ultra-traditional medium of p.r. flackery.
You may tell us that the blog was speculative to begin with, and we shouldn’t have entertained unsubstantiated speculations. But to be fair, Dylan McGrath did his homework, called TI for comment (Guess what? “No comment”), talked to analysts, and built his theory on rumors already rampant in the industry.
Obviously, Dylan’s feeler triggered the conversation. That’s how the conversation always starts. Some comments by our readers were more entertaining and insightful than the original blog.
The case with TI is just one recent example. Since the forum opened, we editors have often tried to get vendors to use it as a venue for making a point about a story, refuting an aspect of a story, or other commentary they may have about our editorial. Almost without exception, they have declined to do so.
So, what’s stopping industry leaders, executives, decision-makers and power brokers from engaging in the conversation thread with our readers, who are, after all, their customers, potential customers, their colleagues and employees? Is it beneath your dignity to talk to engineers?
In a contrasting note, props to Wally Rhines, CEO of Mentor Graphics. He wrote an opinion piece on "Semiconductor industry deconsolidation" for us, posted on our page, and he gladly responded to reader comments in the forum. The more power to him, because obviously, he is not too deeply ensconced in his corner office to find common cause with the humble readers of EE Times.
To be clear, it takes more than a day to build a community. To keep the community alive, one needs to feed the community. One needs to get involved. And as people say, it takes a village – vendors in the electronics industry included – to bring up this nascent offspring.
Of course, speaking up is a huge responsibility. It takes time, effort and thought and often instigates unwelcome and uncomplimentary feedback. But speaking out in a forum as open as the one we’ve built at EE Times is a kind of test. The speaker who cannot, with a measure of grace, cope with negative response is ill-suited to be a member -- or, especially, a leader – in the community.
So, unless what you mean by “community” and “engagement” that what you want is a “fan site” that speaks kindly of your products and technologies, you’re not really ready for Internet prime time. The community does not readily suffer prima donnas.
Please, call me Chris ;-).
I'd definitely be interested to how much visibility an executive might have on a story like this. I'm sure some of your readers are executives, but I doubt any of them would ever jump right in and discuss plans. If they do, more power to them; but I'm guessing they wouldn't be executives long if they slipped up, boards don't seem to be forgiving about that sort of thing. Nor the SEC if it affects stock prices and future knowledge...
Totally agree. If they're going to talk the talk, they need to walk the walk. I think most times, vendors believe "social media" and "engaging customers" means that people should visit THEIR site and stay there. Nope, doesn't work like that. I get my news and opinion from lots of places and the vendor's website usually isn't one of them. Datasheets and press releases, maybe; but not honest opinion or heaven forbid...speculation about the future of the company!
Intel has tried to 'diversify' for years if not decades now. Have they succeeded in doing anything in say Wireless or RF? Intel has conducted so many seminars and talks on 'Intel software' about some IDE which they want users to use for their C or C++ programs. My goodness! many users are in C# or J2EE or .Net environment and here is Intel talking of C and C++. The same is true for 'embedded systems'. I hardly see any ripple, forget splash, caused by Intel! I am not sure if TI is in such a bad state to sell their OMAP division but even then is OMAP a necessity? :o
Junko: Wow. Yowzers! It is a good thing that I couldn’t open this page earlier today. This way I can see both your posts! One thing to note is that I said there is a continuum in the conversation. Engineer to Engineer conversations do indeed include business subject but it is their business area. I’ve seen passionate discussions for example on things like standards. But when it comes to speculating who will acquire whom, unless they work for either of those companies… “who cares”. [Now that is an extreme statement, and said for effect to get a point across.]
In think then that there is community spirit with many vendors. I also know there are more lurkers than contributors. Maybe that is the issue as one becomes more senior in a company, we lurk more than contribute because what we may say needs to be more managed. We need to watch out for those following posts where someone may slam us for providing our transparent perspective :).
[[For transparency sake, I no longer work for a competitor of TI nor do I work for TI. As a high tech marketer, my passion continues on figuring out how to deliver to my customers what information they need when they need it for them to be successful. If that delivery path is through a community… I’m there!]]
Ti has done a few things right in the arena of community and engagement. Take the Beagleboard, for example (an open source OMAP ARM single board computer). They created a group to design and support the board. Both Gerald Coley and Jason Kridner, the designers of the Beagleboard, regularly chime in on the community that's been built around that program.
When I was in need of information, both guys were quick to respond and very through. I'd call it an example of how to to community and engagement right.
Wow, I like your conspiracy theory here. Yeah, who knows, right? But to be clear, our editors are all very mindful of what comes to our way, who is trying to spin us. That's what a professional journalist is paid for. Of course, we are not always right and we may fall for that "spin" once in a while. But again, I must say there lies in the real difference between an independent journalist (not paid by a specific vendor) and some bloggers -- not all, but some -- (paid by a vendor, whose purppose is in "planting" certain stories.)
We fight for it every day.
Come on, Rob De. Your points are well taken, but here's the thing. To box in engineers and to limit their engineer-to-engineer conversation (or peer-to-peer conversation)on technical matters in a forum are not the way to go. As we all know too well, technology and busines decisions are always intertwined. To tell engineers that they should only focus on engineering but not on business matters is insulting. Let an engineer be a whole person who is interested in many aspects of life and work.
Many executives in the electronics industry were engineers once. Every engineeer should have opinions and understandings about where their technologies are going to be used and what that market look like.
As discussed above, there are multiple levels of conversations that need to be had in customer engagements. It is a continuum where at one side the discussion is deep technical and on the other end is business only. My experience is that technical forums have the best conversation. It is here where problems and solutions are shared day-in and day-out. It is very transactional but meets the needs of both sides of the conversation.
The business conversation is a bit more complex and unfortunately in large companies may require internal discussions across a broad group before a single response can be made. It gets more complex if a discussion may cause the FTC to express concerns about statements that significantly impact the market.
I think when us marketing people talk about community and engagement, we are talking about at the engineer to engineer transactional level. Now maybe these discussions aren’t the exciting news items, but they are the place we (vendors) can be comfortable discussing in a transparent way.
“community” and “engagement" is very good for commerical part. However, on in-depth technical discussion from compenents to systems, there is lot of scope to improve from both community and vendor participation.
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