20101108220038ENPRNPRN-UBM-ELECTRONICS-ACE-AWARDS-90-1289253638MREDN magazine will disappear as a print publication after the June 2013 issue as UBM Tech (previously UBM Electronics) consolidates EETimes.com, EDN.com, TMWorld.com and Embedded.com into “on-demand online communities” driven by brand directors Alex Wolfe (EE Times) and Patrick Mannion (EDN). TMWorld.com users will be redirected to the Test & Measurement Design Center on EDN.com.

EE Times’ Rick Merritt, Dylan McGrath and Peter Clarke and EDN’s Rich Pell, Steve Taranovich, Suzanne Deffree, Jessica Macneil and Janine Love will curate the sites, aiming to develop interaction and conversations with their respective communities. Ann-François Pele, based in Paris, is the latest victim of cuts in the editorial team and has left UBM.

This move begs a couple of questions: not least how Penton (Electronic Design etc.) and Hearst (Electronic Products etc.) will react. Will they see this as a golden opportunity to grow their print media as another major competitor moves out of the market or will they give up the ghost and shift everything online too? It’s clear that a significant proportion of electronics engineers still like to read paper magazines but a growing number say they also like the digital magazine format – a sort of half-way house between print and online. Perhaps the bigger question is how valuable a publisher-driven online community can be for the electronic design community. As a specialist electronics PR agency, we know that most designers working on anything interesting are bound by strict confidentiality rules and are unlikely to engage in any meaningful public dialogue that could help potential competitors.  A quick look at the ‘Design‘ section on EE Times this morning shows a list of the lead stories for 18 Designline microsites. Across all of those stories, there is just a single comment on the Planet Analog lead, so not much engagement there. Most  comments are generated by innocuous, fun stories like this one from Brian Fuller on the state of engineers’ desks.

The UBM announcement talks about wanting to deliver more value to customers and “moving to a new community-focused strategy that unites our world-class industry events with our digital brands and supports them both with advanced analytics technology to provide members a continuous information and experience based on  shared interests and peer-to-peer learning.” Based on the evidence of engagement – or lack of it – can this really be the best way forward? Where are the stats to show that the community strategy creates growth in site visitors or, more important still, growth in banner click-throughs?