Machine Design’s new blog

collision between trade press and bloggers

I can only imagine what it’s like to be in the publishing industry today, especially the trade publishing business. Costs are up, advertising is (probably) down and other voices are being listened to. Worse, the Internet has disintermediated content distribution. Today, some would argue you don’t even need a printed magazine…Google’ll get you there quicker. (For my part, I still think reading a printed book or publication is most emphatically not the same thing as searching for and reading information online).

I’ll bet some of these publications feel like bowling pins: whacked, then set up again to be whacked all over again.

So it must be with some trepidation that these traditional, printed-magazine businesses dip their toes into the Internet world, especially with respect to blogging. Damned if they do, damned if they don’t.

With this in mind, I recommend that you head over to Machine Design’s newly updated blog and check it out. Leslie Gordon — whose excellent online content had been previously buried in what they called a blog but which was actually a forum-style interface — sent me a link to the new site, which is vastly improved.

Still, at the risk of biting the hand that feeds us (the trade press is hugely important to us to get Seemage’s “product information everyware” message out), I’d like to recommend some additional ways to make the new Machine Design “blog” more authentic.

First, a blog ain’t a blog without a blogroll. The new site has topics that you might think are individual blogs, but the links turn out to be just articles. There’s no date-oriented consolidated list of articles.

Second, you gotta allow comments. It’s odd that the digg.com-inspired graphical elements on the main page (which should be the blogroll) show zero comments for every article. Clicking on an article produces no way to comment, anonymously or otherwise.

By contrast, we take all comments here, requiring only that users login and help digitize books by entering a reCaptcha to eliminate as much comment spam as possible. We only delete profane comments. If you are going to have community, it has to be two way.

As the Aussies say, “Good on ya, Machine Design” for sticking with it. But, despite the good content, you have a way to go before your blog looks and feels like what most people call a blog.

I am not surprised, though, that this isn’t easy for Machine Design. Their universe has been completely turned around, as demonstrated by this post on our blog.

When’s the last time you remember a software company commenting on the form and style of a magazine’s blog? When the software vendor laid claim to more publishing authenticity than a well-known trade publication? Just think about the role reversal: for years, the trade press commented about software’s features, documentation, customers….whatever they felt important enough to print.

Now, with the Internet powering companies’ ability to project their thinking directly into the community, we technologists are now commenting on the publishers’ products.

At Seemage, we’ve been eager to use this medium to directly communicate the revolution in manufacturing our product creates. We’ve used this blog to assert our ideas, comment on the industry and promote our view of the issues confronting manufacturers who need to ship high-quality products at the lowest possible cost. And we’ve enjoyed having unfiltered access to the customers who read this blog.

I suspect some of those bowling pins are going to continue to be knocked down a lot, at least until the trade press really embraces this new world of direct communication.

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