I (Liz Massingill) recently had a chance to chat with Amelia Dalton, News Editor at EE Journal and host of the weekly webcast, Fish Fry. She shared her thoughts on the future of EE Publishing and EDA.
Amelia: I’ve been hosting an engineering webcast series called Chalk Talk for about five years now. Chalk Talk has been really successful and has grown a huge fan base, but it is a commercial series where a company sponsors each episode, and I wanted to do something more editorial that had the same sense of humor and spirit as Chalk Talk. I’m the news editor for EE Journal, so every press release in the electronic industry comes across my desk. As you know – a few of these press releases are interesting and useful, and some are completely ridiculous and quite funny.
Liz: But I’m sure you’ve never gotten one of those from us, right?
Amelia: I came up with the idea for an engineering news-related podcast as a fun-finale to our editorial week. I wanted to report the interesting real news, and to make fun of some of the… less useful stuff.
Liz: Your irreverent humor has certainly appealed to me.
Amelia: I wanted to capture some of the engineering culture and something about the lifestyle and the more human side of engineers. I envisioned something for electronic engineers that was like a combination of “The Daily Show” and “This American Life.” I also wanted to build in a good measure of nerd appeal. I’ve kept pretty true to that concept for the first year of Fish Fry.
Liz: So who is your target audience?
Amelia: My target audience is definitely the career electronic engineer, but as it is with the rest of our editorial content at EE Journal, I want my Fish Fry broadcasts to be approachable for anyone who works in EE and maybe even those ultra-nerdy friends of mine! One of the things we’ve always worked to do is make complex technology accessible for less technical people and to put the deep-nerd stuff in perspective for the hard-core engineering brain. I think Fish Fry captures that.
Liz: Indeed it does. How have they reacted to your on-air persona? For me, that’s the draw that keeps me coming back!
Amelia: The reaction has been overwhelmingly positive. I think my on-air persona is a big part of that, as well as the slightly irreverent take we have on technology news! I very diligently try to put myself in the place of the “average” engineer and investigate each topic I pursue from that angle. It doesn’t hurt to throw in the occasional Star Trek reference either.
Liz: Beam me up, Scotty. Tell us about your background before Fish Fry?
Amelia: Not many people know this, but my father was a voice over talent and radio DJ for many years when I was a child. I heard “Member FDIC” more times than I could count! Before we launched Fish Fry, I had been News Editor and Chalk Talk webcast host for 5 years at Techfocus Media, which I continue to do to this day and that experience has been absolutely invaluable.
Liz: What interests you most about EDA? Or does it?
Amelia: EDA is a very unique industry and I definitely think it doesn’t get the credit it deserves – or it’s share of the electronics industry pie. It is really the backbone of the modern electronics industry, but your average consumer may not even know EDA exists and your average engineer may not know much about it, other than the tools he or she is already familiar with.
Liz: I know one of those engineers. What can we do about that?
Amelia: One of the things I try to do is to help the average engineer – who is the customer of the EDA industry – better understand the companies and people behind the tools they are using every day. I think it’s easy to expect EDA tools to cost and behave just like mass-market commercial software, but EDA tools are a completely different thing. I can’t give EDA the revenue share it deserves – they need to figure that out on their own, but I can at least raise the awareness of the importance of EDA and the challenges that industry faces among their target customers.
Liz: And believe me, we all appreciate that. What is your opinion of the social media craze and its influence on the EDA industry or the EE industry? How has social media influenced or altered editorial and communications in general in EDA and the EE industry?
Amelia: Engineers have been using social media for a lot longer than this most recent craze, truth be told. If you think about it – Usenet was the first social media, and engineers were using that voraciously before the web even existed. I think a large community of engineers are still rooted in those venues and haven’t been so fast to make the move to newer properties like Facebook and Twitter.
Liz: What do you think is holding them back?
Amelia: I think most EDA companies think they should be involved in some level of social media, but they are not sure how to start. There are some intrinsic problems with EE and social media, and the biggest is the lack of information that companies (and the engineers who work for them) are allowed to divulge. The center of social media is about sharing information, and since NDAs, project secrecy, IP protection, and paranoia rule the roost at most companies, I’m not sure the EE community at large is able to take advantage of a lot of the community power of social media – at least for direct work-related content. To make things even more complicated, a lot of companies still block social media sites on their company networks. Engineers will still find ways to share information, though, whether it includes personal Facebook accounts or anonymous posts like what is found at John Cooley’s Deep Chip…But overall, I believe that social media as we see it today will have an altogether different role within EE than it does to the rest of the world. Our philosophy on social media has been to be all-inclusive. When I post a new Fish Fry, for example, we generally put it on the front page of EE Journal, in the e-mail newsletters, on facebook, on twitter, on RSS, and we provide a mobile version. We want to cover all the bases. I think we dropped the 2-cans and a string version just a couple of weeks ago.
Liz: What about the pigeon and the message in a bottle? What does the future hold for EDA?
Amelia: Well, that’s a very good question! I believe that the business model for EDA as a whole needs to see some serious changes in the future…when that will happen, well, I’m not sure I can predict that. I can see how more smaller niche tool companies will be snatched up by the bigger fish, so they can have more robust tool offerings, but I think we need to see more real innovation from inside the big EDA companies as well.
Liz: Do you see other types of companies gobbling up small EDA vendors?
Amelia: I also see chip companies snatching up smaller tool companies as well, to add to their tool suites, so that is providing some competition for commercial EDA companies that they haven’t seen much in a few decades – in-house tools competing with commercial ones… Who will be left when the dust settles, who knows?…it will be very interesting to watch it all unfold.
Liz: Along with a plethora of editorial material. Speaking of editorial, what’s your 2 cents on EE publishing. Where’s it going?
Amelia: I believe EE publishing is going to be an online only endeavor in the near future. As we have made our mission from the start here at Techfocus Media, I think the electronics industry trade press needs to continuously find new avenues to reach the EE community of the world. Publishers must be flexible with content delivery as they maintain editorial intergity. I am deeply concerned by the number of publications that have fallen back re-writing press releases, relying on contributed articles, and the “pay for play” mode of editorial and I am very proud that EE Journal has never and will never go that way. I believe that we, as the trade press need to report the truth wherever it may lay, and to be loyal to our audience. Publishers need to find ways to make a viable business for themselves without violating those underlying principles of responsible and ethical journalism. It’s possible, and taking the easy short cuts is just plain lazy.
Liz: I like the way you think, Amelia. And I think I’ve just been…….fried.
If you want to be fried, you can catch Amelia every week on Fish Fry at:
Like us on Facebook