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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One Response

  1. Hi Nick, Thanks for the mention of our blog in your post. I think blog posts complement the other types of information provided in traditional websites. In the case of Emerson Process Experts, it is to highlight the people around our organization and the things they do to help solve problems. I measure its success in total blog visits and the contacts I receive from people connecting with me after finding a post.

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