(Blogger Sean Murphy and I continue our conversation on the role bloggers play in the EDA and semiconductor IP world.)
Ed: Clearly, the bloggers will play – if they’re not already – an increasingly influential role. But are they a separate and new community onto themselves? After all, they’ve got their own room at DAC this year. So either DAC isn’t giving them press badges or they want to be seen as a separate and distinct community.
Sean: Brian Bailey has an interesting perspective on what the bloggers may become. He wrote an interesting blog post at the end of March on “Unintended Consequences. “Will the independent EDA consultants, like myself, be the only source of impartial information about what the EDA companies are up to, and if the claims they make are true? But even consultants rely on the trade press to bring things to our attention. It could also mean a lot more work now for us to keep up with the tool introductions and developments.” By the way, our first conversation got picked up on Twitter. Take a look: http://twitter.com/plindemann/statuses/2230457756
Ed: No, I didn’t see that tweet, but thanks for pointing it out. Yeah, that’s my concern. There needs to be basic reporting being done by someone. From that basic reporting, the opinionmakers can analyze, comment, criticize, vent. Who’s going to do that basic reporting now? The bloggers? Of course, this dilemma isn’t limited to us. The New York Times is the only newspaper that staffs a full bureau in Iraq. If or when it shuts down, then how do we or any commentators – say on the Huffington Post – get our basic news?
Sean: It may be a matter of function. I agree with you that the basic reporting function may not be the role of the bloggers. However, I agree with Bailey: that many good blogs are written by independent consultants. Many of these bloggers blog to promote their expertise. So bloggers don’t blog to provide news, so to speak. For bloggers, their blog content is a way for them to demonstrate their expertise and draw visitors to their site. Just looking at the website traffic for one client, over 30% of the visitors entered on the main blog page, and then more than 80% of blog visitors clicked deeper into the blog or the website pages.
Ed: All well and good, but the question remains: who’s going to report the news, give us context and insight? The vendors can easily distribute all manner of announcements. Will the bloggers pick up the role that Richard Goering used to play at EE Times, and fitfully, at SCDSource? I suspect not. We seem to agree that bloggers are basically columnists, opinionmakers for their specific audiences. So they do demonstrate their expertise…but what’s their role in molding industry wide pubic opinion…beyond their specific target audiences?
Sean: So your question may be, are we heading into an era where bloggers will have an increasing role in molding industry opinion? I think Karen Bartleson’s “Standards Game” blog on EDA standards has changed perception of Accellera, and standards efforts in general, as a vital part of our ability to make progress. With her “Ten Commandments of Standards” series I think she has offered some excellent suggestions for how to take part effectively in standards efforts–and how to interpret, by comparison, other developments in the standards arena. So that’s an anecdote, one data point, I am not sure what it looks like in another two to four years. In the last year we’ve transitioned from about 60 bloggers writing on EDA-related topics to what looks like perhaps 200. A year ago I thought we would get to 500 in three years (2011). Now that may be there next year if this trend continues.
Ed: But of those 200, perhaps a dozen or so are frequent.
Sean: To be honest we are still crunching the numbers. Out of approximately 100 that we have analyzed in some detail, we found at least 50 that posted on average once every two weeks between March and May of this year, and of those 27 who posted once a week on average, and of those about a dozen who posted at least twice a week on average. The final counts may perhaps double in each category. There are about a half dozen “press release aggregation blogs” that merely re-post EDA press releases as blog post, I didn’t include those in my frequency statistics.
Ed: How do we quantify the bloggers’ audience and influence?
Sean: That’s a hard question to answer, the size of audience and influence of each blogger. Most have traffic levels that are in the noise level for tools/websites designed to track mainstream consumer websites.
Ed: Exactly! Example, I was shocked when you said some bloggers got only three comments a month. I simply did not believe you! Until I looked myself. So, any blogger who got three comments a month…Would I be able to sell as an influential opinionmaker to client? It’s tough enough to sell the bloggers conceptually right now.
Sean: One calculation that would be useful for your clients would be the posting frequency and amount of original material. Quality of writing is certainly important, as well as expertise. Another model you see in other industries that I don’t yet see in EDA are “link logs” where someone takes the time to find relevant material on other blogs or cites and point it out. Instapundit is certainly one popular example, where probably 75-90% of his content are links and quotes from other blogs but from a very large spectrum of blogs.
Ed: Well, re: frequency, I do see these folks as more or less 1) weekly or more (Bartleson, Goering, McLellan); twice monthly (a lot of them); monthly (Aycinena and several others) and some who haven’t blogged since January.
Sean: But without a “publishing schedule” it’s still useful to assign a frequency.
Ed: I agree re: frequency…but how do we determine eyeballs that see their blogs? I was just saying that that is how I categorize seriousness of blogging intent, since I don’t see statistics on eyeballs. Bartleson is obviously serious. The twice per month folks are also as are the once monthly folks. After that, it gets tough to justify spending client cycles on cultivating them. Having said that, I think its important, maybe imperative that we do so.
Sean: This is a good question. I think it’s complex but doable. The complexity comes from a calculation of incentives. Bloggers don’t have a “news hole” to file in the way that print publication does. Also, I think in the same way that an EDA firm uses application engineers (or technical marketing folks) to support and interact with customers it may make sense to encourage many of them to also start blogging to interact with other “independent” bloggers. That seems to be what Cadence and Mentor have done in the last six months or so, there are dozens of new bloggers at each of those firms posting in their public forums. I also wouldn’t underestimate the impact of open forums like the Verification Guild, where a number of serious technical issues get raised and addressed.
Ed; What’s your take on EDA and IP vendors’ acceptance of bloggers? I think vendors are starting to take note, but there’s still a need to justify the cultivation.
Sean: What’s to justify? Or what’s the alternative?
Ed: I have to justify the influence of each blogger to the client. A blogger with three comments in a month wouldn’t fly because the client would say, not worth my time. Shortsighted? yes. Even the good editors or reporters at second or third tier publications…we tell clients, “ya never know when he or she ends up at Business Week.” Witness Sarah Lacy.
Sean: I think some bloggers with few monthly comments may become more popular…those who have a very serious approach. Comments are not always a proxy for influence. But I do think we will see certain bloggers essentially initiate ad hoc forums with their posts. One of the things that have been holding that back I think has been that the high traffic blogs associated with publications, or what I am assuming are high traffic blogs, have poor comment entry and management systems. McClellan is posting several times a week–I counted more than 60 posts in March, April, and May which works out to daily if you let him take Saturdays and Sundays off–and he normally gets a few comments on many of his entries. But the comment system EDN has is wretched and not designed to encourage participation but to filter spam out. If they would supply his readers with the right infrastructure I think there would be a much larger community there already.
Ed: I know that. But my problem is how to prove that.
Sean: Fair enough. I think it may be something that’s hard to get good numbers on. One of the reasons that you have been able to get good numbers that were independently verified for the publications was that it was at the root of their business model: they used those same numbers to sell advertising. I don’t think we will see that model work except for a handful of bloggers.
Ed: So how do the bloggers get a higher profile among the corporate executives, the ones who authorize marketing cultivation efforts?
Sean: Presence on industry forums and portals such as DAC’s. I can’t figure out how DAC picked the bloggers they highlight on their home page. I think the publications still have huge traffic compared to independent bloggers.
Ed: So how do we get numbers, any numbers? Karen Bartleson’s possibly got the highest number of eyeballs based on her topic and longevity, don’t you think?
Sean: I don’t know what Karen Bartleson’s numbers are. My sense is that Paul McClellan, at least on the “business of EDA” side, may be getting a lot of interest just because he is posting frequently. But when I asked him at the EDP workshop in April in Monterey, he said that EDN doesn’t share any statistics with him. That would be an interesting session, comparing google analytics results.
Ed: So somehow, we need numbers of some sort to figure out influence, and then to justify blogger coverage, right?
Sean: It’s closer to columnist coverage than journalist coverage. I think it’s more important to assess the particular “micro-audience” that a blogger delivers. It could be that group or multi-author blogs will emerge for EDA in the same that they have in other industries. A brand gets established that’s larger than the individual author, in the same way that it matters more that an article appears in EDN than who in particular authors it.
Ed: Agree, more like columnists than reporters. Clients are just now acknowledging that they need to pay attention to bloggers. But they have no problem pitching to a Wilson or a Goering (in his reporter days). Funny thing…the output is often the same. In truth, isn’t the act of blogging just another distribution mechanism? Reporters and editors, analysts and researchers all “blog” now.
Sean: I do think there might be ways to make for more “blogger friendly” interviews/engagements. Maybe it’s somewhat intimidating to vendors because bloggers are part of the unknown right now. However, at some level it’s useful just to point to the independent opinion/evaluation that these blogger bring to the table.
Ed: Still, there’s some legitimacy to figuring out the dynamics of the old-line journalists and the, for lack of a better term, the new line bloggers. It’s like the VHF TV channels..they’ve lost huge numbers. They’re still bigger but the UHF channels have just eaten away at those numbers by the sheer number of new channels out there.
Sean: VHF vs. UHF is a very good analogy.
Ed: So in a way, we have more new choices on UHF but we still watch VHF channels.
(Sean and I will look at the bloggers role after DAC’09…which could be a momentous turning point on the role EDA bloggers play in our world. Stay tuned.)