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Control Amplified turns conversation into content

Feb. 8, 2019
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Back when we started doing some videos about machine builders for Control Design magazine, somebody tossed me a handheld microphone, and I wondered, "What am I supposed to do with this thing?" So I stared at it for a little while, and then a longer while, and even panicked slightly before realizing that 1) I have little or no shame and 2) I could ask the same questions in audio and video that I've always asked in print. Whew! What a relief!

This was a very helpful realization because it freed my mind from another of the little mental prisons we can get stuck in when faced with the unexpected or hard to understand, or when we have too little information or too much.

Anyway, we went on to do something like a dozen or more videos, which I think are still watchable somewhere at ControlDesign.com. Lined up on one webpage, their only glaring error was that I wore the same, old sport coat in every single one! Terrific. How professional.

We contemplated doing similar in-the trenches videos for Control, but understandably, pretty much zero plant managers engineers were interested in video shoots of their process applications.

More recently, we've done many podcasts with the friendly analysts at ARC Advisory Group, who examine our monthly cover article topics in greater detail. I thought these were great talks, but much like the videos, they languished with a few dozen listeners/viewers, until we suspended efforts because they didn't look like they could generate at least some interest in the long run. We're not doing this as a hobby, after all.

Undaunted, or likely too foolish to quit, we've been giving audio another shot lately. This is mainly because our new digital engagement manager Amanda Del Buono assures me that podcasts are definitely a thing, and got us signed up to make them available at the iTunes Store, Google Play and on Control's YouTube channel, where they can hopefully reach more listeners. Apparently, many people like to listen to them during commutes or exercise sessions. I know many non-fiction and fiction podcasts, like NPR's Serial and other true-crime dramas are very popular, but I didn't consider that this phenomenon would reach us.

As a result, I've recorded four new podcasts over the past several weeks for our new series that we're calling Control Amplified. So far, I've interviewed ARC's Craig Resnick and Larry O'Brien about their October 2018 cover article on the Control/ARC Top 50 global and North American automation vendors, and Emerson's Bob Karshnia and Peter Zornio about the December feature on wireless and this issue's edge computing cover article, respectively.

They're basically the same as the interviews I do with all willing participants, as I struggle to learn what's new and useful about the topics I'm covering, and they strive to explain them to me. The only difference is that I'm trying to ask much better questions, like Dick Cavett, if you remember his long-ago TV show. I'm also trying to take better notes, so I don't have to ask subjects to repeat themselves. Plus, just like any good conversation, I've discovered my sources and I need to talk about what we're going to talk about before recording, so we can balance controlling our discussion without being boring, while also keeping our exchanges lively without any of my free associations sending it off the tracks. I suspect this is an occupational hazard that many audio and video presenters have to deal with regularly.

Of course, this balancing act is another reason I hesitated and stared again when the idea of podcasts was revived. On second thought, I'd recommend a little staring, panicking and puzzling. It's great for getting the gears moving.

Starting with the best-quality questions I can formulate, and ending with interview subjects, who I'm certain are cornerstone experts in their fields, we'll try to make Control Amplified into a series of podcasts that are worthy of being downloaded. As usual, any questions or suggestions are welcome. You know where to find me.

About the author: Jim Montague

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