Aris Silzars Display Technology Consulting



Lost in the Noise…

Delete, delete, delete… Take a quick look, delete...  Another quick look, another delete…  Oh, here’s one that needs to be read…  Perhaps this next one I will get to later…     

And so it goes.  The electronic din is growing louder by the day.  My automated spam filter dumps nearly 500 messages each day.  But at least 50 junk ones get through anyway – on my e-mail service especially if they are in French.  But even those that may have a potentially useful message are mostly deleted because there is no time to read them.  Other more pressing e-mails are already coming in -- demanding an answer. 

Searching the Internet for a particular piece of information or looking for a particular product has become ever so much easier than the old-fashioned way of having to go to a technical library, semi-randomly searching through old conference proceedings, or having a bookshelf full of mostly out-of-date catalogs.  But such directed searches are most useful for bits of information or products that we already know enough about to start the process.  This is incredibly helpful and as it should be, but is this enough to keep us up-to-date with new developments or to learn about products that are so new that perhaps we don’t even know that they exist?

For many years technical magazines, available at no charge to those in a particular industry, have been the predominant way for us to keep up with industry news and new product developments.  The cost of producing the editorial content, of printing, and mailing these trade publications has of course been supported by advertising revenue.   But in recent years, this advertising revenue has been dropping as businesses have changed their focus to creating a presence on the Internet.  Clearly, it is important to be prominently visible on search engines and to have a convenient presence in the form of an electronic catalog.  After all, what could be more convenient that being able to type in a few words on a search engine and instantly be presented with dozens or perhaps hundreds of choices for a product we seek. 

For many of us hardware types, another recent and immensely valuable technology purchasing tool has been Ebay.  In earlier times, it was necessary to have insider knowledge of multiple sources that could help us locate reasonably priced used instrumentation or other scientific equipment.  Now, one can have hours of fun sitting at a computer finding all kinds of interesting items from all parts of the world.  Having a ready access to items from a worldwide supplier base sure beats the personal-contact-based process of times past.  Likewise, it’s a great benefit to sellers who now have a reciprocal worldwide customer base. 

What does all this portend for our trade publications?  Does this mean that printed technical magazines are about to become historical relics?   Will they survive in electronic formats only?  Or not at all?  

I’ve always found that having something to take along with me to read while on an airplane or other such confining activity was the best way to catch up on what new technologies, products, or services may soon become available.  For me, airplanes provide a great opportunity to kick back and browse the ads and just enjoy discovering what new surprises may await on each succeeding page.  But are there enough others who still feel the same way? 

On a typical Sunday morning at the neighborhood coffee shop, I find most of the tables occupied with laptop computers instead of newspapers or magazines.   Browsing is certainly going on -- but it’s being done electronically. 

It does seem that we are in a period of rapid transition.  Some print publications have been affected by these changes more than others.  For example, each month I receive several photography magazines and they seem to have adapted well to promoting the new digital technologies.  Photography, whether film or digital, is a visual medium and for showing the latest developments the printed page still appears to be the best format.  For these publications, there has not been a noticeable drop in advertising pages.  Other print publications are not doing nearly as well.  Advertising revenue for some technical trade publications is dropping at a pace that will not allow the print versions to survive.  Then what?

Will the electronic versions be sufficiently compelling to allow them to become suitable replacements?  For me it’s much harder to find time during the business day to read technical publications online.  I can perhaps manage a short newsletter -- or two -- but that’s about it.   Yet they keep filling up my incoming e-mail by the several dozens and at an ever-increasing rate.  They shout at me for attention.  Yet, I simply push “delete”.  Should I have a separate inbox on my computer to put some of the more interesting ones for later perusal on my next airplane flight?   Perhaps it’s time to create such an electronic “corner” to facilitate the changeover that is obviously occurring.  The reality is that printed technical publications may not be around much longer.

Now, I just have to figure out how to create that special electronic in-basket that is as convenient as the corner of my desk where the printed versions currently go -- until that next trip to the airport.  

If you would like to share your ideas for an electronic magazine inbox with me, please respond directly from this site, by e-mail at, or by telephone at 425-898-9117.