Monday, November 3, 2008

Plotting Out a Year's Worth of Topics

Anyone who works for a magazine knows that this is the time when everyone puts their heads together to formulate a list of topics, features, and interviews that will appear in the following calendar year's issues. It's called an editorial calendar, and we're now in the final stages of putting together ours for both Marketnews and here's how! magazines. While the fast-paced nature of this business is always on our minds, you never really comprehend it fully until you sit down to perform such a task as this. It's difficult to try and slot applicable topics into various months of the year! How do you truly look to the future of consumer technology, where things can change literally from one minute to the next? It's almost impossible! Nevertheless, we do our best based on projections, expectations, and good ol' intuition.

There are seasons and holidays that dictate high selling times for particular products, for example. Back-to-school is logically during the July/August timeframe, while the holiday shopping season is November/December. Flat-panel sales often spike during the SuperBowl (February) and Black Friday (end of November after the U.S. Thanksgiving). Photo products do well during or just prior to the summer time, since people are either looking to buy digital cameras to take on their vacations, or printing photos like wildfire having just returned from a trip. As for the camera manufacturers; they typically save their major official product announcements for February/March (during the PMA trade show) and October, which is when they all hit like wildfire. Yes, there are enough new digital cameras coming to fruition to result in two major launch times per year! And Boxing Day? Ahh, every retailer of every gadget loves Boxing Day...that is if you're not working a 12-hour shift on the sales floor!

When it comes to highly-anticipated technologies for next year, we can attempt to predict when a few might hit it big. New cell phone carriers, for example, all anticipate having their services up and running by Q3. So it's safe to assume that a lot of attention will be placed on this space come that time; which is also when we can expect to see a flood of Google Android devices hit the market. CES, North America's largest technology trade show, takes place in early January, and naturally, every manufacturer will be making major announcements at that time. Ditto when it comes to the custom audio/video industry and CEDIA; the September-held trade show dedicated to that part of the technology space.

Then there are other "up-in-the-air" items that need to be considered. Will LED become a fierce competitor in the flat-panel arena next year? Can Blu-ray make it for the long-haul? Is Android going to take over the cellular world? Will WiMAX and NFC technology become commonplace? Can digital downloading overtake physical video media? We can speculate all we like, but the truth is that topics have to be reworked throughout the year to best accomodate what's happening. And let's face it: something always happens to shake things up.

In a way, this is a good thing. There is never a time where we have nothing to write about in the technology industry; and never a slowdown in product development. While TV manufacturing might slow down, cell phone manufacturing picks up. As cell phones slow down, PCs and digital content take off. There's always something. The other day, I saw a demonstration on TV of a head-worn device hooked up to a computer that could analyze brain waves and dictate letters of the alphabet that the person was thinking. Entire words would be spelled out on screen, letter by letter, until a full sentence was formulated. The point? It was being used by a man with ALS in order to help him communicate. Now that is truly amazing: there's so much more to technology than we could ever imagine.

What do you predict will be the big topics of '09?

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