The internet mixes up the PR and the editorial work

The role of the Editor has changed radically since the arrival and consolidation of the internet. No longer does the letter post bring each editor a batch of typed press releases, with photos attached, which are then read and rewritten and retyped into a different format for a paper magazine. With emailed news, releases are now despatched using a scatter-gun approach, multiplying the received PRs ten-fold, and in many cases all these are not read beyond the first sentence. Even then the 20% that might be relevant may not be read totally, but just loaded onto a website using ‘Copy-and-paste’ instructions. Clever footwork by Google stopped these repeats being listed in their searches, so that Google only ever presented the first (source)  webpage to show the text. Frequently the first publication seen by Google is now on the PR agency webpage – meaning that they emerge as new competitors to the media they are paid to serve! Caught lagging behind, frequently the supplier and his website publication pages miss out on Google, and miss out on any potential for reader spin-off into the rest of his site.

Inbound Marketing

Jim Pinto in his newsletter in May pointed to the Jon DiPietro discussions of marketing in the automation business. The opinion expressed is that “Outbound marketing” (ie indiscriminate advertising) is said to be broken – or may only be useful for corporate image enhancement. “Inbound marketing” uses a variety or set of internet media to attract customers using content that matches their needs, or search terms/routes.

DiPietro specializes in Inbound marketing assessment, and recently completed evaluations of the effectiveness of the web presence of Rockwell, Yokogawa, Emerson and Honeywell. He says in aggregate, the results are average. But they seem only to achieve that, based on Emerson’s good results, particularly as a consequence of the Emerson Process Experts blog run by Jim Cahill. It seems to me that DiPietro might put too much emphasis on this as a factor, based on experience of a lot of web searching around automation topics, but maybe I am too conservative. However, DiPietro also quotes Emerson as having a tremendous lead due to their multi-year efforts at generating content, and creating an engaged audience. He also points out that the rest of the industry has a tall hill to climb, to catch up with Emerson, and many have not started.

As a balance to that, it is worth commenting that some search functions on large well populated websites can return so many hits, it becomes counter-productive.

Other problems listed for the average websites are poor home pages, domain splitting and no calls to action, leading to a lack of conversion of visitors to leads – but DiPietro can explain all that for your site in a free inbound marketing evaluation, see http://www.domesticatingit.com

Balanced editorial

To compile the INSIDER newsletter, looking at the information published by automation suppliers on their blogs and websites, or within press releases – and then at what is supplied to, or created by, third party emailed newsletters, news websites or even paper publications, is the sort of input a really aware and diligent customer might experience. Finding the balance, equalizing the news flow, is difficult, with each supplier having a different view on how much information to present, how to schedule it and where to publish it. Often the US websites of non-US suppliers are far more useful as the source of information on the corporate developments or news from the home country.

Then the real differences come in the actual composition of the texts supplied: it is really frustrating to read about a brilliant new product where the PR does not actually say what it does. That is where the experienced PR agencies and editors are important.

The slow cut-backs in paper magazines

What happens when the internet kills off the income stream to the paper magazines? Well it has happened already. The publishers cut staff, pages, and costs, so that the expensive, experienced editors are fired, and replaced by lower cost (younger) editors: OR the old guys stay on at a reduced salary and hours: they are not allowed to write much themselves, they just recycle articles paid for by advertisers, that are written by PR agencies or freelance writers. So what are the frustrated editors doing, after being fired, or working reduced hours – well they are all working as freelance writers, paid for by the PR agencies who then send their work back to these same guys, now acting in their role as “editors”, back in their day jobs the next day. Soi the editors still do the work, it’s just that their salary costs are split between the publisher and the PR agency, and the articles lose the impartiality they previously offered. Even the e-mailed newsletters that now appear, one for each industry, often have the editorial written by paper magazine editors, moonlighting!

Is this true? Well before I “retired”, to just edit the INSIDER, I ran the Processingtalk website in the evenings, worked in a PR agency writing PR for a major automation company 3 days a week, and in the 2 days off wrote the PR for three competing flowmeter manufacturers – to send back to my own website, as well as to the other websites and magazines run by my editorial colleagues. Then I discovered that they were all doing much the same….

Make sure your PR agency uses a good ex-editor to write your press releases!

Practical illustrations:

In the UK, the publishers Centaur plc bought the “Talk” websites, 13 of them covering engineering topics, with titles like http://www.Engineeringtalk.com, http://www.Processingtalk.com, for GBP4m in 2006: having slowly carved them up and cut them down from the original successful model, and removed the editors who pioneered and built up this group of websites into a profitable business (there could be a slight personal bias creeping in there), Engineeringtalk, Manufacturingtalk, Electronicstalk and Processingtalk have now been subsumed into the website for The Engineer magazine. RIP.

Perhaps more relevant in terms of print publishing, Centaur has put the for sale sign up outside two magazines – “Process Engineering” and “Metalworking Production”. The question as always is, who would wish to pay for them, when all they might get would be the brand.

Russ Swan, Editor of Laboratorytalk.com, speculates in his blog (http://russswan.com/?p=429) as to the future of this website within Centaur, since it does not sit well within the empire of “The Engineer”. We can only conclude that Russ will shortly be adding his undoubted talents to the pool of expertise serving the internet and publishing industries, from several new roles behind the scenes.

Chris Rand, now running his internet marketing consultancy BMon.co.uk, commented on the current changes to Google only a few days ago, in his daily newsletter, that for the moment the recommended course of action is to “create [website] content, and use all the active channels you can. The last laugh may well be with the instrumentation company I spoke to the other day who had just cancelled all its magazine advertising and both of the trade exhibitions lined up for next year, and used the £35,000 saved to employ a full-time writer (or “content creator”) in-house.”

Lets hope that stops the magazine publishers buying another packet of cigars.

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Using non-potable water, wisely.

In the UK, B & V Water Treatment is pioneering the use of non-potable water supplies for industrial uses, such as cooling and washing, to conserve water supplies and reduce costs. The system uses abstraction of water from canals, rivers and boreholes, in such a way as to minimize any impact on the natural inhabitants of the water source.

Their first installation has been installed at plant that uses 400 tons of water per day in a recycling process for nappies (diapers). The required water is now extracted from a canal in the UK Midlands. Head of water treatment engineering at B & V, Kevin Byrne, explained: “We can provide the design and environmental modelling to abstract water from canals, rivers, boreholes and other sources to a UK Environment Agency approved standard.”
The systems are designed to ensure there is no harm to resident wildlife, and even the filters have environmentally friendly components as they are made from recycled glass.

A second UK project will use an alternative water source for non-consumptive, ‘free cooling’ purposes at a newly constructed library complex, using water from the River Severn.  Up to 100 tons per hour of cold water will be pumped from the Severn and fed to a chiller plant for the air-conditioning of the complex. Again, the filters are quoted as small enough to ensure that no wildlife is sucked into the system.

B & V Water Treatment was established in 1977 in the UK by Dr Richard Barrett and Paul Vincent, hence the B & V. It has grown to be one of the largest independent UK water treatment companies, and adopted the name ‘B & V Group’, which is made up of B & V Water Treatment and B & V Effluent Services: this latter company joined the group in 2005. The holding company is Global Chemical Technologies, of Daventry (UK), and the group has no links to Black and Veatch Corporation, formed in 1915 as a partnership between Ernest Black and Nathan Veatch, in Kansas City, Missouri.

Working with Lord Sugar’s apprentice:

BBC Apprentice star Tom Pellereau’s spectacular win on the BBC TV programme ‘The Apprentice’ this week has been applauded by staff at B & V Water Tretment, one of the UK’s largest legionella control and water treatment companies, as the 31 year old inventor has just spent a few weeks working on a top secret project with the company.

Tom, who this week was awarded a £250,000 business partnership with multi millionaire mogul Lord Alan Sugar, has been working at the B & V offices on a revolutionary product which is due to be unveiled in the autumn.

Tom, whose personable approach and creative thinking won him the contest, has been working with members of the B & V R+D team in his capacity as director of life sciences company Biomimetics Health Industries which creates chemicals aimed at killing well known contagious micro-organisms.

B & V MD Simon Ward said: “All of us would like to congratulate Tom Pellereau on his new business partnership with Lord Sugar. We have been working with Tom for a while now and we have all been very pleased to watch him excel on ‘The Apprentice’.  For Tom to go onto to win the competition is an amazing achievement and we are all very happy to see a great person that we all really enjoy working with do so well.

“His geek like status is proving an inspiration to a new generation who are now discovering that both science and being kind and thoughtful are positive qualities in a world often dominated by more aggressive types. It’s good to see science and ‘goody goodyness’ becoming qualities to aspire to.

“Tom is a fantastic guy to work with – friendly, approachable and an old fashioned gentleman. We’re privileged to be able to work with him – and so proud of his incredible achievement. His success shows that you don’t have to be a Rottweiler to succeed in business – his so called ‘underdog’ status pretty much sealed the deal.”

The bespectacled inventor, who has a masters degree in mechanical engineering and innovation from Bath University, is also rumoured to have been offered a role presenting a BBC science programme.