Sean Murphy and I have been talking about the role that bloggers play in the EDA Industry since we put together the Blogging Birds of a Feather at ICCAD in November 2008. In the last week, we decided to formalize some of our conversation and blog about it. We wanted to share our current assessment of a complex and evolving situation and invite both comments and further dialog.
Sean’s perspective is as a customer development consultant who blogs and helps his customers to blog. Sean has been blogging since October of 2006. His firm, SKMurphy Inc., helps software firms with strategy, new product introduction, and business development. Prior to SKMurphy, he worked in a variety of roles–software engineer, engineering manager, project manager, business development, product marketing, and customer support– for companies including Cisco Systems, 3Com, AMD, MMC Networks, VLSI Technology, and Silvar-Lisco. His current EDA clients include PicoCraft, Semifore, and Achilles Test (who are attending DAC for the first time this year).
From my perspective, bloggers are a near-unknown entity to the PR people in EDA. Compared to the traditional journalists and publishers, bloggers are perplexing as to their intentions and motives for blogging. Sean and I have known one another since our VLSI Technology days together in the mid-1980s. I went on to various public relations firms – and worked for EDA clients such as Valid, Mentor, ECAD – and at Cadence before opening my own shop in the early 1990s. Since opening Lee PR, we’ve worked primarily with EDA and IP clients such as Chronologic, Compass, Cooper & Chyan, Epic, IBM EDA, Nassda and have worked with various academic organizations as well.
What follows is Sean and my ruminating about bloggers and their role in EDA, in light of the gradual disappearance of the old-line journalists, market researchers, and financial analysts covering the industry. Sean and I first talked about some common questions facing PR folks in EDA.
Sean: What’s your perspective on the role blogger community plays in informing potential users about current and new EDA offerings?
Ed: This is the big question. We’re in a period of tumult and transition. The old-line journalists are disappearing and the ones who survive are blogging themselves. What bloggers bring to the EDA industry is perspective and personal opinion that’s informed by their individual focus, interests, and the span of their information gathering. But it seems to me that bloggers are more like newspaper columnists than reporters. Where will the basic reporting come from? What will provide a basis or a context for these bloggers/columnists to wax prolific?
Sean: I see bloggers as more of a blend of columnists and reporters. They often write about product announcements, report their observations and issues. Usually they have a wide set of resources both on-line and in-person. Good blogs take a lot of reading and gathering information. But you are right, good blogging is also good linking and bloggers will link to other bloggers, perhaps who have either firsthand knowledge of events or deep technical knowledge. Because of the links, bloggers are often more transparent on their sources than traditional news sources sometimes are.
Ed: Who are the bloggers? I see them as a mix of indies, those employed by EDA and IP vendors and editors who write for industry publications. As with the industry press, we need to know the specific focus of each blogger. But now, we have a second need to know: who signs their paycheck. The bloggers seem to me to be very transparent on that count. So that helps us understand how to work with a blogger’s area of interest AND consider that blogger’s perspective.
Sean: Most bloggers are industry evangelists. I was surprised at the BoF how many many bloggers had a customer facing role (e.g. marketing or customer support) in their company. Another large segment of bloggers are independent consultants who are looking for more visibility–trying to get better known and find a job. Often blogs are started to provide pointers to other helpful resources, share perspectives, and to learn from others who share a common interest. Some bloggers use their blog as a repository or chronicle of an issue: these can be useful for a community of interest that can leverage proven approaches or explore new ones to solve common problems or issues. Reading about approaches that others have tried is extremely valuable to the community and usually these types of blogs are not written by marketing folks but evangelists or other experts like independent consultants. One thing I wrestle with is when does it make sense in time and money to reach out to bloggers for coverage. And how to do it effectively.
Ed: So the next question is: how to work with the bloggers in EDA and IP? Do we separate the old-line press from the bloggers? Consider them all part of one group? So we invite them all to one meeting or hold two? For sure, we don’t want to blast press releases to bloggers.
Sean: I think it definitely makes sense to reach out to bloggers who are providing a valuable service to a community you are interested in reaching. This doesn’t necessarily mean the blogs with the highest traffic, especially when you have a niche product; it’s blogs that are read by your prospects. One effective way to reach out to bloggers is to leave well written, informative, and germane comments on their blog. You can include a one or two line signature that links back to your website if people are interested in more information. I agree with you: one of the least effective ways to reach bloggers is to send them press releases.
Ed: So how do these independent bloggers monetize their blogs? What are the incentives and potential conflicts?
Sean: I think most bloggers are building social capital and don’t really have a plan to monetize their blog directly. I do think independent bloggers are often promoting their expertise and want to build influence within their network. Employers or current clients are going to bias the blogger at least as far as self-censorship.
(More to come on this topic and from this conversation.)