By Keith Larson, VP of Content
If it’s true that nothing in business happens until someone sells something, it’s also true that no process control happens until something gets measured. Indeed, despite all the commercial technologies at the control and information levels of process automation, measurement technologies suitable for industrial application remain the exclusive province of our industry.
And, as it turns out, making sure that a media brand like Control remains relevant to your information needs is a lot like controlling a physical manufacturing process. Sure, we use a liberal does of editorial judgment based on experience to decide what it is that an increasingly global community of process automation professionals needs to know and cares to read. But measurement, direct feedback from our constituents, is critical if our efforts are to remain effective. Our full-time editors can’t assume that their increasingly outdated direct experiences in industry will continue to adequately inform their decision-making. Rather, a constant flow of feedback—both anecdotal and quantitative in nature—is necessary to ensure that our efforts are continuously calibrated against the collective needs of the community.
This is especially true in times of rapid change, such as those we find ourselves in today. Digital media platforms and broadband connections are changing the ways in which information is consumed, as well as the form of the information itself.
Streaming videos on topics ranging from the basics of PC-based control to calibration best practices are viewed on the ControlGlobal.com web site by thousands of visitors weekly. We know this because digital platforms allow us to accurately measure website activity. Indeed, digital metrics have in many ways made measuring our readers’ hot buttons (or snooze buttons!) far easier.
Sometimes, though, we’re not looking just for the type of indirect feedback that can be inferred by interest in a particular topic. Rather, we need direct input from the community regarding, for example, the adoption rate of emerging technologies. For such purposes, web-based surveys have become an increasingly important tool.
For example, having written about the advantages of using documenting process calibrators for nearly 20 years now, I find it all to easy to assume widespread usage. Yet a recent survey shows that almost three-fourths of you still rely on pen, paper and clipboard to gather calibration data. This surprises me, yet provides a measured perspective that is critical in building an editorial package that is best suited to the true state of the industry.
Another unexpected twist that has come to my attention of late is that those same digital technologies that have made it increasingly easy for us to gather and publish feedback from our readers, have also made it easier for another constituency—the Wall Street market analyst—to leverage our measurements to their own ends. Today, analysts’ search engine alerts constantly scour the sites of business magazines such as Control, alerting them to technology and company mentions that might confirm the rising or falling prospects of a publicly traded company in our space.
Indeed, analysts questioned the results of our latest Readers Choice Awards, when one company posted outsized gains in several technology categories. As it turns out, this annual poll, designed to identify the best technology providers in some 60 different instrumentation and control categories, occurred during that company’s annual user group meeting—a newsworthy gathering we covered in our own blogs and e-newsletters. Could this coincidence have confounded the survey results? Hard to say. But I do know that the exchange has given me a new appreciation for our credibility as well as a renewed sense of responsibility to ensure that the measurements we make are as accurate and representative as possible. In the coming year, look for us to continue to improve the rigor of our survey methodologies. The automation community deserves no less than our best.