Intel’s Free Press Bill Calder Takes it to the Next Level

by / Newsroom Ink on 10/03/2011

By Ed Lallo, Newsroom Ink

Moments that change how a “game” is played are seized by only a few undaunted individuals and corporations with the foresight and belief that the final reward outweighs the risk. In the movie Moneyball, Oakland Athletics General Manager Billy Beane, played by Brad Pitt, knew that he had to change the perception of how baseball should be played for his team to compete against teams with deeper pockets.  A year ago Intel changed how the chip industry “game” was played when it established the industry’s first dynamic online newsroom staffed by journalists – the Intel Free Press.

Bill Calder, Founder and Executive Editor of Intel’s Free Press

“When we started the Free Press, the key was to have a clear vision of where we wanted to go,” said Intel Free Press founder and executive editor Bill Calder. “In our case we had a management that was supportive and saw the potential benefits for the company, despite the risks.”

Calder saw the importance of setting clear policies:

  • what we were doing
  • who we were
  • what kind of stories we would cover

“We were incredibly lucky to have a team of web designers who had already turned Intel’s online pressroom into a leading social media optimized site on a new platform. So we were able to get up and running quickly with their help,” Calder explained. “The hardest part was figuring out how to design the site, getting the layout right and establishing the infrastructure of the back-end.”

Media attention to the newsroom was more than expected. The initial goal of the Intel Free Press newsroom was somewhat altruistic, writing stories and providing content that people would not only want to read, but republish in whole or in part on other news sites.

In addition to the two or three feature stories published each week, Free Press also posts a number of smaller articles as well as videos. The goal is to provide content and context from the Intel and chip industry perspective.

“The site was never designed as a place for Intel to start ‘a conversation’ with readers,” Calder said. “But what happened was, a conversation did get started in the press about a new era of communications – a new era of so-called brand journalism – a term that ironically has been around for years. And the conversation is continuing.”

In addition to the media audience, Intel has found the site has built both a consumer and internal following that praise it as being a refreshing new way to tell the company stories.

“Internally people like it because it is perceived as somewhat of a pioneering approach to communications, using the story-telling approach forged by the staff of Newsroom Ink,” said Calder. “We’ve received a lot of accolades internally and externally, and it has served as somewhat of a catalyst for some really interesting programs that could enhance our ability to communicate in new and different ways going forward.”

A number of reporters that cover Intel are intrigued with the newsroom, and several reporters glance and glean it for story ideas regularly.

The news business remains in a state of continuous change with shrinking budgets and increasing pressure to cover more with less. Social media gurus and bloggers like Tom Foremski at Silicon Valley Watcher, has been saying for years “that all companies are media companies” and is supportive of the Free Press newsroom.

Stories from the Free Press have shown up in places like Forbes, and Tom’s Hardware, a respected tech review site.

“What that tells me is, we can produce material that matters, and can get it into the online news ecosystem,” said Calder. ‘We have a lot more to do, but some of the initial results are encouraging. I think we can generate even better content, faster, and I want to enhance the photo aspect.”

“We are even starting to get pitches from our PR colleagues and business units,” explained Calder on the internal interest around Free Press. “We have to pass on a lot, but we listen and try to find the story behind the story – sometimes it is there, sometimes not. We sort of zig when everyone else is zagging.”

With support from his management, Calder has been able to take the Free Press newsroom to the next level with the hire of former managing editor Ben Tomkins.

Tomkins, who has a strong background in technology journalism and communications, joins Intel Free Press as its new managing editor.

Tomkins, who has a strong background in technology journalism and communications, joins Intel Free Press as its new managing editor.

“Ben brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to our fledgling news service and we’re really excited to have him on board,” said Calder, who handed over day-to-day editorial operations to Tomkins. “We really want to take it up a notch and generate even better content, and refresh stories more frequently.”

“Intel Free Press is a groundbreaking platform for engaging stories and quality journalism about technology and innovation,” Tomkins said. “I’m thrilled to be joining the team here and working with them to take this site to the next level.”

For Intel taking it to the next level also means taking it overseas.

According to Calder, Free Press is exploring some ways to get content shared outside the U.S. by “partnering with some of our friends who are anxious to get Free Press articles translated for their audiences in Europe and Asia especially.”

“We have people in every geography around the world. Ultimately we’d like to be viewed as a credible news source operating from within Intel, but without the spin,” Calder said. “We are going to find ways for the content to move up and off the page and into the news ecosystem. We are talking with our colleagues in France about the possibility of a French Free Press newsroom.”

For Intel measurement and metrics are essential, but in this case it’s not an easy task. .

“Clearly we have data that provides us with page views, and we can see through various analytics how some of our stuff is getting picked up, where videos have been embedded, where in-bound links are coming from and so on,” Calder explained about the Fress Press analytics. “We use Radian 6 to monitor some of the social media aspects, tweets and retweets, etc. But our model is a little different in that, we simply may not see every article or piece of article that gets picked up and re-used.

“Remember, our mantra is “take our stuff”, we want the content to move up and off the pages and into other places where it can be edited or re-used free of charge. We can see where that is happening with some interesting results, and we are getting better at tracking these, but fact of the matter is we may never see all of it.’

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  1. Chuck Single says:

    If anyone can help you get it to the next level, it is Ben Tomkins. Writers ink flows in his veins – not blood. His mind is not made of nerve endings, but of 1’s and 0’s. Just give him time to ride his bikes and assist his wife Melanie in raising their son Mac and your goals will be achieved.

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