The Road Ahead: From Content to Community

Dec. 10, 2007
Today, Control isn’t just a U.S.-focused print magazine, but an increasingly global and interactive community.
By Keith Larson, VP Content, Putman Media

Hard as it may be to believe, we’ve come once again to the end of the year—and with it the start of a new one.

Perhaps it’s because the December installment of “Windup” represents the very last editorial page of the very last issue of the year. Or perhaps you could chalk it up to an over-developed sense of nostalgia. Either way, I’m charged with The Last Word, and it’s just too tempting not to take this opportunity to reminisce about the year gone by—and to lay down some of our resolutions for the one to come.

First off, let me note that 2008 represents a very special anniversary for Control magazine, as we celebrate 20 years since the first issue hit the streets in October 1988. (This intrepid engineer-turned-reporter would not join the editorial team until a year later, in the fall of 1989.) Control was launched on the eve of the early 1990s recession as a pure print play with a relatively simple mission: To meet the U.S. process industry’s information needs around the application of instrumentation, control and automation technology. Thanks to management’s early patience, we survived that recession, earned your support and have thrived in the years since.

Twenty years on, our industry and functional focus remains essentially unaltered. Today, however, we’re not just a U.S.-focused print magazine, but are bringing together an increasingly global and interactive community via a diverse range of platforms, including electronic media and face-to-face events.

Early in November, I attended an industry conference of business-to-business media executives, many of whom are struggling with the challenge and opportunity of transforming their “trade magazine publishing” businesses into something that might more accurately be called “developing community around multi-channel media brands.”

At the meeting, I was especially struck with the words of Peter Goldstone, president of Hanley-Wood’s business media unit and the dominant business-to-business publisher in the U.S. residential construction market. In achieving the company’s estimated 80% share-of-market position, Goldstone stressed the importance of never being complacent even when in a position of market leadership, of always investing “to make the good better, and the better best.”

And so we believe here at Control. We’re investing in the print magazine; we’re investing in people. We’re creating new and compelling digital platforms designed to leverage the power of the global automation community. And this year our AutomationXchange event in August promises to provide an unprecedented level of interaction for end users seeking solutions to specific process automation needs.

To start this special anniversary year off right, next month we’ll be unveiling a fresh new look to the print edition. The work of our gifted art director, Derek Chamberlain, this top-to-bottom redesign will bring a more contemporary feel to the pages of Control, while also making it a wee bit easier to read for the many of us who, surveys show, are likelier than ever to sport bifocals or other presbyopic aids. Further, for those of you reading this article not as a print publication, but as a digital facsimile of the print edition (our web-based “digital edition”), we’re hard at work putting the finishing touches on a third-generation platform that will also debut in the next several weeks.

We’re out on the leading edge of new media formats too, with more than 50 original videocasts and audiocasts already posted on ControlGlobal.com’s Process Automation Media Network. Scott Babcock, our newly hired multimedia director, already is bringing professional production values to our video and audio efforts. Further, the latest addition to our digital team, bilingual Katherine Bonfante, is overseeing our first Spanish language multimedia efforts. And, starting this month, each of our magazine cover stories will be complemented by exclusive audiocast commentary developed with ARC Research, adding a layer of depth and analysis to our already award-winning editorial.

Web 2.0 principles also are shaping our first attempts to better harness the collective knowledge of the broader process automation community, including the user-editable “Wiki of Lost Automation Companies” as well as the editors’ Sound Off! blog. Other interactive features too numerous to list here are in the works, so do check in with

ControlGlobal.com frequently—I promise it will be an interesting year!