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 Stephen Hardy, editorial director/associate publisher, Lightwave.
To help you better understand Lightwave’s focus this year and in the future, we asked Stephen to share some of his insight on the magazine and on the future of telecommunications in general. Enjoy!
PR Vibes Interview Q&A
What is the editorial mission of the publication? How has it changed?
Lightwave is a monthly international e-zine (and a website, and a developer of live and virtual events) focused on fiber optics and optoelectronics, the technologies that enable the growth, integration, and improved performance of voice, data, and video communications networks and services. Lightwave provides technology, application and market trend information for corporate and technical managers and staff engineers at equipment suppliers, service providers and major end-user organizations. Lightwave’s editors emphasize analysis and interpretation in their coverage of the development and use of fiber-optic components/subsystems, systems and networks.
With the exception of a few tweaks to keep up with the latest buzzwords, the mission statement hasn’t changed much since I arrived here. How we execute it has. The advent of digital media has given me several new ways to engage my audience and forced me to constantly reexamine the role of the magazine that was the only product we had when I was hired. And my role as well. I’m not an editor anymore, I’m a content developer.
How long have you been at the helm of this publication?
Since February of 1997. I joined Lightwave right in time to watch the Telecom Bubble inflate. Ah, those were the days when I was an editorial genius…(ahem).
What are you charged with accomplishing?
I basically run the editorial operations for the e-zine, the website, and any other irons we may have in the fire. So that means developing and implementing editorial strategy and tactics for each. I also participate in new business development, from brainstorming to writing business plans. When wearing my associate publisher hat, I get involved with developing marketing materials and fulfilling some of our more complex advertising programs, like microsites. In between, I write, blog, tweet, code, post, shoot video, edit (text and video), travel, meet, interview, and make a mean carrot cake.
Who are the key target audiences?
For the e-zine, we have three principal demographics: the vendors who make optical components, subsystems and systems; the carriers (telco and cableco) who deploy optical communications technology; and the major end users/utilities/municipalities/etc. who have become curious about what fiber optics can do for them. The audience is global and predominantly senior management types. Online, we service these three groups—particularly those who don’t get the e-zine—plus people researching companies in the space for investment purposes.
What are some of the key topics you plan to cover in the next year?
Photonic integration, the march of optical technology closer to end users, the development of 40- and 100-Gbps transmission options, and the overall health of the players in the optical communications space, from vendors to service providers.
What changes has this publication put into place (or plans to put in place) to be more effective?
The biggest recent change for the magazine has been the shift to digital delivery, which led to a complete redesign. Online, we’re redesigning the site; we plan to launch the new look this summer.
How do these changes put you in a better position?
For the e-zine, the new format embraces a trend in our subscriber base we could no longer ignore—the rapidly increasing demand for the digital version of the magazine. At the same time, moving to a digital-centric distribution model offered a host of benefits for us that directly translated into an improved product for our readers. For example, I can offer our e-zine subscribers most of the same media-rich information options—such as links to additional related articles, video, audio and other online content—that have made the Web so popular, but in a form that retains the “easy to read” layout of a print magazine. The e-zine still doesn’t have the up-to-the-minute currency of our website. But the new format succeeds, I think, in combining some of the best of online and print, making the e-zine more relevant and useful than your average paper publication to fiber-optics decision makers.
The shift clearly has some economic benefits for us as well—and these also can be leveraged to better serve the fiber-optics community. Freed from the economic constraints on shipping magazines overseas, for example, we can now more easily add subscribers in emerging markets, such as India and other areas of Asia.
The site upgrade will make content easier to find and provide a more interactive experience. Visitors will discover we’ve expanded our coverage into new areas as well.
How do you try to distinguish Lightwave from other industry publications?
For more than 25 years, the Lightwave brand has been synonymous with coverage of fiber-optic communications technology, applications and business trends worldwide. No other site or magazine has our longstanding relationship with the fiber-optics community. I differentiate the e-zine and the website by providing useful information to my audience in a manner that maintains the trust and respect we’ve earned.
Do you offer any events or other special features?
For the last several years, we’ve partnered with the Optical Society of America to present the Executive Forum, held each year on the site of OFC/NFOEC the day before exhibits open. We launched our first virtual tradeshow last year, Optical Access ’08. The 2009 edition is scheduled for late fall. We have a couple of other ideas for other virtual events that you’ll hear more about soon.
What is the most popular section of your product family and why?
Anything staff written consistently rates highest with our audience. They also seem to like the video interviews we’ve added to the site and e-zine. The blog also gets its share of attention, probably because it (along with the videos) provides a bit of personality.
What do you see as the most impacting technology/trend for the next 12 months?
The economy, and how it affects optical technology development and deployment, continues to be the biggest trend. From a pure technology perspective, photonic integration will be the key to enabling carriers to keep their costs in line; which suppliers can successfully implement such integration will separate winners from losers.
If you could interview anyone, who would it be and why?
Theo Epstein, general manager of the Boston Red Sox. He’s created a highly successful organization that embraces change, and thus should be able to provide tips I could use in my professional life. I’m a fanatical Red Sox fan, so I’d also be looking for inside dirt on the inner workings of the team. Finally, I’m also player/manager in a baseball league for men who are old enough to know better, but play anyway—and I can use all the help there I can get.
What’s keeping you up at night?
The fact that I have not yet mastered time. Also, the fact that David Ortiz has forgotten how to hit.
If you weren’t in telecom, what would you be doing?
I’d be writing about something else. If I hadn’t gone into writing, I’d have tried psychology.
Who do you consider a role model or inspiration?
I don’t have a single role model; I’ve always experimented by seeing someone do something that looks useful and trying it out. My wife is my greatest source of inspiration.
What was the latest book you read?
I’m currently bouncing among The Yankee Years by Joe Torre and Tom Verducci, The Piano Tuner by Daniel Mason, and (in its most nascent manuscript form) my wife’s 23rd romance novel for Harlequin.
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