Remaining Relevant in a Radio World

I aim to provide useful content for technical managers & engineers. How am I doing?
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“When I left my former place of employment and set out as a contractor, I also left my Radio World subscription behind.”

Thus started a blog post I spotted recently. Now coming back to RW, the blogger commented on the smaller number of pages compared to some years back. He acknowledged that he finds some interesting things to read here, yet he griped about the ads, the HD Radio content and the number of stories that are not what he considers engineering-specific.

He wondered whether RW is the best way to stay abreast of things in the technical end of the business. “Is it worth the price?” he asked.

* * *

I am proud of Radio World, though humbled by its challenges. If anything I’m prouder than ever as I reflect on how it has remained relevant, welcomed like a friend into many a reader’s physical or virtual mailbox. I’m pleased that we produce more pages in more issues, winning more market share, than any of our competitors.

Yet an editor should be able to answer questions like those the blogger raised, and also not be afraid to acknowledge that his or her publication is imperfect.

I wrote and thanked him for his post. I told him that as editor I think every day about the questions he raised; that I aim to provide thoughtful, useful articles for technical managers and engineers; and that, while demand for subscriptions seems to suggest we do it well, this doesn’t mean we can’t improve.

I explained that to get the most out of Radio World, he should read both the website, which includes content that may never appear in an issue, as well as our print or digital editions, oriented toward analysis, news trends, commentary and tech tips. He also should check out Radio World Engineering Extra, which we launched “for engineers only” to give them a much deeper technical discussion.

The blogger intimated that he wasn’t interested in some of the topics we cover; yet judging by the content of his very own website, he’s interested in tech tips, avoiding copper theft, how engineers can improve their skills in non-technical areas, humor, business ... topics that could have been lifted from any RW.

Our articles have explored timely subjects like digital radio interference, “Franken FMs,” profiles of NAB engineering award winners and the relevance of the FCC, of AM, of shortwave. Our history articles by James O’Neal are very popular. No radio engineering column is more respected than John Bisset’s Workbench.

Reader reaction suggests strong ongoing involvement. We have the best letters section anywhere; meantime, more and more readers use the “Comment” function below our online articles to publish their thoughts and reactions.

The blogger beefed about advertisements; but the ads are among the most important things you’ll find in RW. Those ads not only make it possible to bring our content to you; they constitute a news story in themselves. Want to know what some of the smartest engineers and designers in radio think will be important in years ahead? Want to identify which companies remain strong and supportive of your industry, are putting forth new solutions and investing in the future of broadcasting? Watch our ads. They’ll tell you a great deal.

RW advertisers are industry leaders and deserve our appreciation and patronage.

* * *

If there is a question I hear most, it is “There was a time when RW consisted entirely of tech content written by engineers; why isn’t it anymore?” Looking back through the archives, that generalization was never true; RW has had a broader editorial mix from its earliest days. But I understand the remark.

Our content mix has evolved, with good reason. The world of radio engineering itself has evolved; RW recognizes this better than most trade media.

Technical execs today need to think beyond the workbench and breadboard. They need to know how to ask for a raise, how to talk to investors about trends, business, regulation. They need IT expertise and technical certification. They need to understand mobile apps, data services and why a PD is making some “ridiculous” demand.

Without question, though, these times are challenging for publications; all media face concerns when infinite information is available online. That’s generally a good thing, so I am not embarrassed to say that we too confront tough choices. We try to make them wisely; I believe we deliver great value.

Radio World remains a strong, relevant brand in print and online. Top radio engineering executives read it; field engineers read it; FCC staff read it; manufacturers read it. Our publication held up very well during the recent harsh business downturn, when others were scaling back the number of times they publish. I’m proud that we have a print edition and continue to support it. Many readers tell me, “Online stuff is fine but there’s still a place for a good, physical publication; I prefer it that way.”

I believe our content mix is better, our journalism and our columnists are better, than in any other radio technical trade publication. Is it worth the price? To me, if you can get all this through a free subscription, that’s a no-brainer.

So: My goal is to support working engineers and technical managers with content to help them do their jobs better. We want to help engineers stay abreast of news and trends. Can I do it better? Tell me at pmclane@nbmedia.com.

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