19:50 PM

The corporation as publisher: Is Cisco's online magazine a sign of further challenges to an already beleagured media establishment?

By Tom Foremski for SiliconValleyWatcher

In my travels around Silicon Valley, Cisco stands out as one of the savviest in its use of new media technologies such as as RSS syndication feeds and blogging.

This might seem surprising, because Cisco is one of the oldest Silicon Valley companies and older cultures resist change. But Cisco is also in the business of communications, and its use of new media could be viewed as adding an eighth layer to the seven-layer communications stack. This additional layer consists of media technologies distributing content such as news, features, and ideas.

Cisco has begun to figure out the emerging "new communications" landscape. This landscape becomes visible when a corporation recognizes that it is both publisher and publication.

In fact, any large corporation can be viewed as a media company in that it constantly seeks to publish content. It publishes what could be called "sponsored" content in the form of company literature and advertising, and it constantly seeks to persuade others to publish its story. Corporations spend a lot of money influencing independent media organizations such as New York Times, Financial Times, Business Week etc, to publish their stories.

A general rule of thumb in the PR industry states that the ROI from influencing independent media coverage of a company is three times higher than an advertising campaign in the independent media.

In other words, money spent placing a story in the New York Times generates sales three times higher than the same amount of money spent on advertisements in the same newspaper.

[BTW, this is also why Google's contextual text ads are so effective because they blend in/become content.]

The new rules of corporate communications, however, are changing this picture. Cisco has found itself at the frontier of these changes, and it will be interesting to watch the company's initiatives closely.

Cisco online mag larger than most independent mags

Consider this: Cisco produces an online magazine called news@cisco that is run with the same journalistic standards as any computer trade magazine. It is the brain child of Dan Scheinman, Cisco's head of corporate communications - and head of M&A(!)

(Ron Piovesan, on Cisco's corporate communications team worked on news@cisco and he first told me about it in November 2004. And earlier this year I met Gretchen Ushakova, manager of internet PR, who runs news@cisco.)

Did you know that in just four years news@cisco has built an online readership larger than that of Investors Business Daily? And larger than the top computer trade newspapers and magazines?

Need I step you through what this means? I'll do it anyway because it resurrects a long word rarely seen since Internet 1.0 days: disintermediation. It is very likely that news@cisco is an example a potential trend that will lead to the disintermediation of established media on a massive scale. I would use capital letters except that it looks ugly.

If Cisco can take the next step, it's success will earn a place the history books (I'll explain what those are in part two :-)


Here is a very good description of news@cisco from the weblog of Robin Stavinsky at new venture marketing.


In Googling Dan Scheinman to double check spelling, it shows our SiliconValleyWatcher interview with Mr Scheinman in pole position. It seems that Google attributes extra value to independent sources of content, just as people do ...