Finding The Right Words

A well-known media industry newsletter recently ran an editorial comment questioning why editorial policies of US and European electronics magazines should differ so much when it comes to sourcing technical articles. It quite rightly said that most electronic design engineers want pretty much the same information—technology reports that help them do their job. And, let’s face it, it’s a straightforward enough editorial ethos that most B2B publishers tend to grasp.

Here’s what the newsletter actually said: “Why is it that the top electronics press publishers in the US and the leading ones in Germany take such a different view of what makes a good contributed article? US editors seem determined to minimise any mention of a product in a contributed technical article. Some go so far as to refuse any article where the author’s job title has the word ‘marketing’ in it.”

Hmmm. Interesting. Being employed by US publishers Penton Media Incorporated as the London-based Editor-in-Chief of the pan-European edition of Electronic Design, I feel fairly well positioned to respond.

American publishing houses like Penton have always invested heavily in achieving good content by having well-staffed editorial departments. Currently, Electronic Design in the US has 12 staff editors and six contributing editors feeding high-quality content into the journal. In researching their articles, these editors will examine and question information they are given. Rightly so, it’s part of their job to cut a path through the sales hyperbole often presented to them.

In contrast, European publishers traditionally run smaller editorial departments. The result is that European publications need to accept contributed articles that are written by specialists employed by electronic companies.

There’s nothing wrong in doing this, provided editors stringently police the content for bias, sales hyperbole, and, of course, any potentially libellous statements. In fact, it’s actually a “plus” point regarding contributed articles. Very often, they’re written by engineers who eat, sleep, and drink their specialist subjects, and the end result is an article that contains valuable technical insights.

As for not accepting articles from marketing people, well all I can say is take a look in this edition’s Technology section and read the multicore article contributed by Ian Bell, director of marketing at National Instruments UK & Ireland. He holds a Master of Engineering degree in Electronic and Electrical Engineering and is a member of the IET ... and it shows!

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