Interview Q&A Richard Martin, Editor-in-Chief, VON

Welcome to PR Vibes, created by Calysto Communications to provide you with key insights into the publications and events in the telecommunications industry. Today, we’re featuring a short interview with Richard Martin, editor-in-chief, VON.

To help you better understand VON’s focus this year and in the future, we asked Richard to share some of his insight on the magazine, the tradeshow, and on the future of telecommunications in general. Enjoy!
PR Vibes Interview Q&A

What have you done to breathe new life into the VON Conference & Tradeshow?

Well, just having it under the Virgo Publishing umbrella is huge. As you know, Virgo has a very strong telecom division that puts out xchange and Phone+, and has the very successful Channel Partners and B/OSS expos, and so it’s tremendous to have that support and that brand strength behind VON.

Second, we’ve assembled a crack team of editors, reporters and bloggers on – if you read it, you’ll agree that our reporting and analysis is unsurpassed in the telecom sector.

Finally, I’ve got the support of the industry. The keynote speakers are Fred Briggs, EVP at Verizon Business, Joe Burton, who heads Cisco’s unified communications division, and Skype Chief Strategy Officer Christopher Dean. That’s an indication of the enthusiastic reception we’ve gotten from industry figures, who uniformly say “We’re glad VON’s back, and we’re glad Virgo is behind it.”

How is it different than the previous VON?

VON in the last few years was already expanding beyond its origins as a VoIP publication and conference, and we’ve just completed that process. VON is about the advanced IP communications services that are reshaping the $2 trillion telecom industry.

What is the focus of the show?

The VON Conference & Expo is about service provider transformation. We can all see how the spread of advanced IP networks and applications is changing the industry, sometimes right under the feet of the people who built the industry in its current form. Service providers, whether they’re Verizon or a local ISP that’s starting to offer VoIP to its customers, are wrestling with that change – not just in technology but in company culture, sales and marketing, customer relations, and every other part of the business. VON will be the best place to understand, and make money off, those changes.

How is the conference portion shaping up?

Fantastic. I mentioned the keynotes, above. In a groundbreaking joint keynote, Christopher Dean of Skype will be addressing the audiences for both VON and Channel Partners, which follows VON at the same venue in Miami Beach. (VON is Sept. 21-23, Channel Partners is Sept. 23-25) He’ll be wrapping up VON and kicking off Channel Partners. It’ll be standing-room only.

You can see the full agenda at We’ll have four tracks: Migrating to IP-Centric Environments in Tough Times, Mobile & Wireless, Unified Communications, and Cloud/Hosted/Open Source. I think the breadth of the 30-plus sessions really gives a sense of the dynamism of our industry – and will provide attendees with a detailed roadmap going forward.

Who are you expecting to attend/exhibit?

We’re expecting 3,000 mostly service provider attendees. I’m defining “service provider” very broadly, from AT&T Wholesale (which has already signed up to exhibit) to your local ISP that has started adding voice service.

It’s a little early to give out a full exhibitor list, but we’ve got major carriers (like AT&T Wholesale), innovative IP phone vendors, softswitch makers, etc. One thing I would add is that we’ve really “right-sized” the show this year. We’re not interested in having the biggest possible show floor; we’re going to provide the right exhibitors, a high-quality group of attendees, and a venue where people can actually get business done and close deals.

What are special features/events are you planning for the show?

Well, we’ll be handing out the annual VON Innovators awards, which we are reviving for 2009. You can see more info on the Innovators on our Web site soon.

I mentioned the Christopher Dean joint keynote above. And, working with several vendors, we are going to push the envelope in terms of a virtual conference this year. I can’t really talk about it quite yet, but you should stay tuned for some announcements that will harness the power of IP communications to transform the tradeshow experience.

What is the editorial mission of the publication? How has it changed?

VON’s editorial mission is to cover the advanced IP communications industries with the best reporting and sharpest analysis available today. I wouldn’t say that’s changed all that much, except that we bring the experience and depth of knowledge of the Virgo Publishing editorial staff, plus my own background as an editor-at-large at InformationWeek, a contributing editor at Wired, and the tech editor of The Industry Standard, to bear on our sector. I think our reporting and analysis is unsurpassed.

Who are the key target audiences?

Service providers, carriers, vendors selling to advanced IP communications service providers, enterprises making use of these services, investors in these companies, and assorted interested parties.

What are some of the key topics you plan to cover in the next year?

They all fall under the theme of “service provider transformation.” Again, large carriers are faced not only with upgrading their legacy infrastructure, but also transforming their sales and marketing forces and reshaping their corporate cultures to really become trusted partners in a way they’ve never had to before. And there’s a host of innovative service providers out there, from Skype to regional ISPs to cablecos, that are competing in ways they’ve been unable to before.

And of course there’s the technology. Unified communications, for instance, is becoming a reality after many years of hype.

How do you try to distinguish VON from other industry publications?

First, by focusing on service provider transformation; second, through the quality of our reporting and analysis; third, with the best lineup of industry bloggers and thinkers of any publication covering our sector.

What do you see as the most impacting technology/trend for the next 12 months?

I’ll pick two: unified communications, which is still to be defined by vendors, service providers and enterprise customers; and the convergence of the PC, the deskphone and the laptop.

If you could interview anyone, who would it be and why?

Uhh, gee – Buddha? Werner Heisenberg? Suleyman the Great?

I take it you mean “living and working in our industry.” Two off the top of my head:

* Julius Genachowski, new chairman of the Federal Communications Commission
* Eric Schmidt

What’s keeping you up at night?

Reviving the VON community in the teeth of the sharpest downturn since the Great Depression.

If you weren’t in telecom, what would you be doing?

Writing about the energy industry. I’ve never been happier than trudging across an oilfield in Central Asia or on the North Slope of Alaska.

Who do you consider a role model or inspiration?

Two Bills & one Jim: William Faulkner and William Langewiesche, the former Atlantic correspondent now a writer for Vanity Fair, and James Fallows, also an Atlantic correspondent and a friend.

What was the latest book you read?

The Atomic Bazaar by William Langewiesche (an alarming and entertaining journey through the shadow-world of nuclear proliferation)

Second Sight by Charles McCarry (the culminating novel in the Paul Christopher series, by the dean of American literary espionage novelists)

If you have questions about this newsletter – or feedback, please feel free to leave a comment at

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