In our industry there is always a debate about whether engineers or journalists make the best editors, Personally, I think both can be successful, but as an engineer myself I’m always going to be particularly pleased when another techhie succeeds. So I was delighted when I got a chance to interview Ian Poole, who started his site as a sideline, and has seen it grow to the point that it now attracts more traffic than many sites from mainstream publications. Ian has a lot of interesting things to say about running a site, SEO and online advertising.

So you are an engineer who has decided to move into publishing. Are you nuts? Haven’t you heard about the financial challenges facing magazines?
Well in many ways I probably am nuts – but I have always enjoyed investigating how new technologies work and writing about them. As for the challenges facing magazines now, I would agree that things are very difficult, but at we have relatively low operating costs so I think we will be able to weather the storm and establish ourselves as a major player before long. Our aim is to carve a niche for ourselves now, allowing people to take advantage of good advertising rates especially at the moment when times are hard – but keeping them low even in the long term.

Why did you decide to start Did you always want to make money from it?
No not really – tracing the site right to the very beginning it all started with some free web-space that came with an email address. Wanting make use of it and experiment with the Internet, I decided to use it to advertise some books I had written. This lead to becoming an Amazon affiliate, and then to attract visitors I needed to create good content. Taking out the domain name around 2002, the site has grown over the years and we now are developing it full-time.
We are now focusing on reaching the electronics engineers who make the fundamental technical decisions. The by-line for the site is “Resources and Analysis for Electronics Engineers.” We are taking contributions from industry experts to provide analysis, technology trends, case studies and the like, and this is under-pinned by the reference material which is written in house. In this way we aim to provide a useful knowledge resource for the engineering community

The site has just run Google ads until now. Why didn’t you try to get display advertising?
Up until recently, we have been doing quite a lot of electronics engineering consultancy work in addition to running the site. During this period Google Ads have been a good way of providing a small revenue without the need to commit time to going out to sell the advertising space. Selling advertising takes time, so we focused our activities on providing good content for the site.
Now we are devoting virtually all our time to the website, have decided to sell advertising to bring in the revenue needed to develop the site further. To help with this we have installed a full advertisement management system, upgraded the site, and now we have the ability to sell the advertising space properly.

What’s the difference in revenue between running Google ads and display advertising?
Google Ads are a great way of running small advertising campaigns on a low budget. However we have been trying to create a top quality website where top line companies feel happy to advertise. Unfortunately Google Ads do not provide much revenue – typically eCPMs less than £1, and often comparatively irrelevant advertisements come up on the pages. To enable the best results to be achieved we believe we need to work with the advertisers on an individual basis to place the best advertisements in the best positions. While many publications charge CPM rates above £70 dependent upon the position and ad format, we are significantly undercutting this, while still aiming to provide a good service.

Are the costs of running display advertising just the commission for the sales team?
A good question! And to give a straight answer – no. While we have to pay the advertising sales team, we have also invested a huge amount of time in creating good quality content as well as developing the appearance and functionality of the site. We plan to continue this trend but to do this we need to finance the site and grow it accordingly.

Google is planning to resell display advertising space in a similar way to their AdWords content network. So why are you recruiting sales people?
There are a number of ad marketplace sites out there. These are fine, and we may well use them to a small degree. However, to develop effective advertising campaigns, the advertising needs to be properly tailored to match the site and advertiser. This cannot be done so easily through the marketplace platform which is good to high volumes of advertisements to generalist sites. We are aiming at a niche market where content has to be up to date and highly technical to attract the right visitors. This type of site does not lend itself well to the marketplace approach. has got some impressive traffic figures without much promotion or a sister print title. How did you do it?
We have tried long and hard to create good useful content. We have seen the traffic rise, particularly in the areas where we have spent time providing the best content. We are always aiming for the “best on the net” (and we hope we achieve it) and this seems to pay off. We have seen traffic rise steadily and we now regularly serve over 300 000 pages a month.

Do you think print magazines have a future? What about digital distribution of magazines?
I love reading print magazines, but they are all finding it more difficult these days. I think there will always be some magazines around as we all love to read from paper rather than a screen. However I feel that the majority of electronics titles will go digital-only in one form or another before too long. I suppose that is one of the reasons why we have never considered having a paper version of

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time, when you’re not writing about electronics?
I have plenty to fill my time – for example our daughter is getting married later this year so there is plenty to do in organizing that. However I also enjoy many other activities and pastimes – reading, music (of many sorts), eating out, travelling and photography – we visited some friends in South Africa last year and also went on safari for which I just had to get a long lens for the SLR – fortunately I managed to get some shots I was really pleased with. In addition to that we are also involved with our local church.

What’s your favourite gadget?
Mmm that’s difficult – possible the camera, or may be the iPod. Not sure which.