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Design Networks showcase Web tutorials

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Webcasts produced by b-to-b media companies continue to grow in number, up 33% in 2006 over 2005, according to a recent study by Web seminar vendor ON24. As competition increases, these media companies are expanding their offerings beyond the most common format: a 60-minute audio-with-slides presentation in which the sponsoring vendor provides one or more speakers.

Take Advantage Business Media, which since last May has been testing a different kind of webinar at its ECNmag.com site for electronic design engineers. Called the ECN Design Network, the core feature is a series of 15-minute tutorials generated by the editorial team; white papers and other supplemental educational materials are also available.

Based on the success of the ECN Design Network, sibling site Wireless Design & Development (wirelessdesignmag.com) will launch its own Design Network early next month. At the same time, the ECN Design Network will get its official launch marketing push, according to VP-Publishing Director Steve Wirth.

“The Design Network evolved out of a series of virtual trade shows we did a few years ago,” said Aimee Kalnoskas, editor in chief of ECN Magazine and strategic editorial director for ECN, WD&D and the ECN Design Network. One of the key discoveries from those conference presentations was that engineers were much more likely to view the archived presentations than the live event.

Kalnoskas explained that design engineers have less time than ever before to design products as they are being asked to do more with less staff. For example, they may have to go back and review concepts they haven’t needed to know since school.

Kalnoskas pulled together three things she knew: First, design engineers sorely needed training on the latest developments in electronic design and refresher courses on some of the basics. Second, engineers were starved for time. And third, they preferred to view online educational events on their own schedules than attend live sessions. The result: a series of 15-minute, on-demand, audio-plus-slide webinars presented by respected industry luminaries chosen by the editors. The editors select speakers based both on their own knowledge and suggestions from the audience.

“Presenters send us the slide presentation, which we review. Some of the speakers are from academia but others are from industry, so we have very clear rules that there can be no company slant or product slant,” Kalnoskas said. “The presenter can record the audio whenever it is convenient. Because they are on-demand, we release them as soon as they are ready.”

During the past eight months, ECNmag.com has banked approximately 20 Web tutorials, Kalnoskas said. “We have another 20 in the works and our goal is to have hundreds of these,” she said, noting that she recently hired an editorial staff person “to work specifically on the growth of the Design Network content.”

“The key to the Design Network is that it is editorially driven,” said Wirth, adding that Kalnoskas “should get a lot of the credit for this.” While sponsoring companies are not involved in content creation, “this is a lead generation-type vehicle,” he said.

Around March 1, the two Design Networks will be supported by a full marketing plan, Wirth said. “In addition to print ads in our magazines and electronic ads on our sites, we’ll be doing search engine marketing, giveaways and other things to promote them,” he said. “I would consider this a big launch.”

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