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Mike Demler on publishing and EDA
August 8th, 2011 by Ed Lee
I (Liz Massingill) was lucky enough to sit down recently and chat with Mike Demler about his new publication and his thoughts on publishing and the EDA industry.
Liz: Tell us about your new publication, EE Daily News. When did you get EEDN up and running?
Mike: As you may know, I had a personal blog called “The World is Analog” for several years. When I learned that I (along with two other editors from EDN Magazine and EETimes) would be laid off by UBM Electronics at the end of May, I decided to continue my work by creating my own news site. One motivation was that I learned from previous layoffs how vital it is to keep one’s network active while pursuing new opportunities. Thanks to Google apps and the community of open source template developers, I was able to convert my blog and build a completely new site in less than a week of my “spare time”.
Liz: Wow! That’s impressive. Who is your target audience?
Mike: As the name implies, my target audience starts with EEs. That’s a broad space, but I expect that hardware/software engineers, technical managers and marketers, or anyone with an interest in developments in the areas of electronics technology that I cover will find something interesting on my site. From my work on EE Daily News I also periodically am asked to consult for investors, or get quoted in other publications, where they need specialized expertise in the subjects I cover on EE Daily News.
Liz: EEDN…not exactly a techie publication (like EDN), not exactly like a news publications (like EE Times), not quite a straight blog (like any number of blogspots). Seems that you veer toward news and publish analysis or your opinion when a significant topic comes along, like the Apache acquisition or the Hogan-McLellan pronouncements on what technology areas will make money in EDA at the startup level.
What do you want to bring to your readers that’s not already been offered?
Mike: First, I believe that the reduction of editorial staff at the major publications results in a coverage gap, and that creates an opportunity for someone with the expertise to fill it. EDN lost two editors, and EETimes laid off their semiconductor editor, so there has to be a fall off in reporting.
Liz: You certainly filled the gap.
Mike: Thanks! Second, my career has been unique in breadth and depth, so (at the risk of bragging) I don’t think there is any other publication or editor that can cover EDA, semiconductor technology, IC design, and the mobile/wireless ecosystem – all of which I do on the EE Daily News – the way that I can. The thing that really gets me jazzed is that there is now such a strong interrelationship of these topics, each of which I am so passionate about.
Liz: Not everyone realizes that EDA is so integral in this relationship. I’m glad that you see it that way.
Mike: And everyone wants to talk about mobile and wireless now. Even the device physics crowd at the last IEDM led off with a keynote on how the mobile revolution is driving the semiconductor industry. I am offering the only publication that provides expertise in each of these areas, and how they are related. You will find articles on the EE Daily News that speak to engineers on a deeply technical level, and also find business insight that reflects my dual EE/MBA background.
Liz: You’ve been an EDA marketer, big organization editor and now editor-publisher. Any speculation on how your career’s all led inevitably to this juncture?
Mike: <smiles> Inevitably? So you believe in fate? Sorry.. I just watched The Adjustment Bureau.
Liz: Yeah, I admit it. There are no accidents. Everything happens for a reason.
Mike: I’m reminded of a quote that is attributed to Yogi Berra – “when you come to a fork in the road… take it!” I was first an IC designer for almost 20 years. That was something I decided I wanted to do as an undergrad EE student at the University of Buffalo. Being able to accomplish that goal, to work in the semiconductor industry, fulfilled what seemed like a far away fantasy for a poor kid growing up in Buffalo. I started authoring articles, and then a book, when I was designing ICs – so I think that has been a part of my skill set for a long time.
Liz: What book?
Mike: The book is “High-Speed Analog-to-Digital Conversion”, which is now 20 years old but still available from Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/High-Speed-Analog-Digital-Conversion-Michael/dp/0122090489).
When I was laid off from Cadence, a career counselor that I worked with told me that I was a risk taker. At first that took me by surprise, since I never thought of myself that way, but listening to her I realized she was right. I left home after college and moved 2000 miles away to work for TI, without a moment’s hesitation. I left IC design to go into EDA sales and marketing, because I wanted to get more involved on the business side. Then I moved to California to do an EDA startup.
Liz: What startup was that?
The startup was Antrim Design Systems and I later became a wireless industry analyst by rebranding myself after being laid off at Synopsys. Those are all pretty crazy things to do, that could have gone really bad I guess, but they seemed like the right path to take at the time.
Liz: But you followed your passion. There is something to be said for that. And look at where you are.
Mike: I’d love to work in marketing again, but I find myself at this juncture with what looks like another opportunity based on my journalism experience. I doubt that it’s the last fork in the road, but I’m taking it. I am also doing some part time work with Open Systems Media, as editor for their DSP-FPGA publications.
Liz: What are your plans for expanding EEDN to include guest blogs, op-eds, white papers, how-tos, etc.?
Mike: Those are all great ideas, which I just haven’t had the time to explore yet while I booted up the site. I am totally open to having other contributors, so please contact me if you are interested. As far as white papers go, I think that would likely come with a sponsorship. I am open to that as well, since I also need to start working on monetizing the site.
One of the things I want people to know, to differentiate the EE Daily News, is that I will never publish something that I have not reviewed. The EE Daily News will never just republish press releases. When I do write an article based on a press release, you can be assured that I read it and tried to add more context and perspective. My recent article on a survey of potential tablet PC buyers is an example of that.
Liz: Good to know, Mike. To me, your added value CERTAINLY is your opinion. We need more of that! Speaking of publishing practices, what will EDA & IP publishing look like in 5 years?
Mike: It won’t take 5 years, but publishing in general will become more dynamic, real-time, and interactive. The traditional media for the semiconductor, EDA & IP space are still struggling to figure this out. What’s suffering in the meantime is the need to produce independent editorial content. Too many publishers are unfortunately transforming into mere aggregators and distributors of hyperlinks. Engineers detest company-sponsored marketing-produced promotional pitches that lack substance. To succeed, publishers will need to continue supporting technology journalism or risk losing their audience.
Content, whatever form it takes, will always be king. But, it must be credible content. I see the 4G connected tablets, like the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 or Motorola Xoom, as ideal devices for next-generation publishing and interactive media consumption. It will be interesting to watch developments in that space over the next year or two.
Liz: Can you expand on this?
Mike: Sure. Other industries are far ahead of EDA/IP in how they are using online and mobile media to engage with their communities. It’s not a completely fair comparison, since the EDA/IP audience is very technical and perhaps not as social, but there’s something to be learned. For starters, look at how magazines, books and newspapers are moving to tablets and eReaders. This offers an opportunity to integrate richer multimedia content, well beyond putting links to YouTube on your site.
With the 4G LTE tablets, and companies like nVIDIA putting dual-core processors with HD video in them, you’ve got some screaming machines! I currently get a faster connection with my LTE smartphone than I get from my WiFi cable-modem combo at home. Imagine what you can do with live event reporting on a portable device like a tablet. You will be able to take a Twitter stream to the next level with live video and 2-way voice communications, to an audience that is not tied to a desktop – anywhere in the world.
Liz: It will be exciting to see how these technological developments play out. Speaking of play, how close are we to total pay-for-play, in all its incarnations and using whatever labels various organizations have coined? Is it good or bad for the industry?
Mike: If by pay-for-play you are referring to vendors getting preferred or guaranteed coverage in return for sponsorship, I would draw a clear line there. In editor-written material, there must never be any undisclosed arrangement, no secret quid pro quo, that influences the content. I certainly hope that other publications aren’t doing that! That would be very bad for the industry, and destroy all journalistic credibility. It goes back to my earlier comment, publications must support technology journalism or all we will have is ads. Our technical audience does not want that. We aren’t the fashion industry!
Which is certainly not to say that I am against sponsorships (call me :)), but just as we do for events, they must be clearly disclosed in any and all materials that are being sponsored.
Liz: Yes, of course sponsorships should be disclosed.
We hear about new directions for EDA and IP, how it’s an EDA360 world, or how we’re going to have to realize SoCs in order for vendors to, in effect, show investors they can make money. What are a couple of the raging issues in our industry right now and what will surface in the next couple of years?
Mike: There are two sides to your question, the technical challenges and the question of what drives investment and company valuations. I need to wear both my EE and MBA hats for this one. The answers might get a little long.
I’ve been around since long before there was an EDA industry, so to some extent there’s nothing new here. For the electronics companies, the end users of EDA and IP, business has been and always will be about product realization. So it’s an SoC now… big deal! EDA companies have never addressed whole product realization, because EDA companies were born from the economies of scale inherent in replacing internal point tools, especially as the industry moved to a fabless model. Sure, ASIC flows developed and the major EDA vendors’ catalogs of tools expanded (mostly through acquisition), but the whole product solution was never addressed. And we know what happened with bundle pricing. EDA inevitably became commoditized.
Liz: So where’s the value in EDA?
Mike: There is certainly value to be had from aiding SoC realization, but no one EDA company can do that alone. More standards need to be developed, and seamless interoperability needs to be achieved. I would argue that the EDA companies aren’t even the ones to lead that. It must come from the semiconductor companies, similar to TSMC’s Open Innovation Platform. The top 10 or 20 semiconductor companies have been driving EDA R&D departments to get what they need individually, and now the industry needs more of a collaborative effort across the ecosystem. EDA360 may espouse that, but I don’t see it changing the trench warfare that EDA companies fight through inefficient proprietary barriers to interoperability. Look at what happened with SPICE models as an example. When I was at Meta Software, we could practically print money because we owned the Level 28 model. Foundries adopted it so fabless companies had to have it. But an industry standard BSIM model was developed that was eventually just as good. What happened to the SPICE simulator market? It grew! More competition and fewer artificial barriers is one of my prescriptions for EDA industry growth.
Then, as Apache Design Solutions demonstrated so well, there is still a lot of value in solving difficult problems. There is no shortage of difficult problems yet to be solved in IC design. As the acquisitions of AWR and Apache also demonstrate, whole product solutions require addressing packaging and test issues. The job is far from over when the chip has been “taped out”.
Liz: Thanks, Mike, for your insight into the publishing industry as it pertains to EDA.
Mike Demler has a unique combination of engineering experience, business and product line management, with more than 25 years of professional experience spanning marketing, sales and operations, to R&D and technology journalism. He is currently the editor-in-chief of EE Daily News – http://www.eedailynews.com/.
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