Positivity is certainly oozing from many channel pores at the moment and long may it continue.
Having recently won 'Brand of the Year' at our internal Incisive Media awards, we at CRN all know how nice it is to have your name called out as a winner and receiving a reward for all your hard work.
From what I am hearing at the moment there are a lot of companies that also deserve some sort of accolade for their achievements.
The CRN Sales and Marketing Awards are aimed at rewarding individuals and teams within the channel for their sterling work over the past year.
They differ from the Channel Awards because these focus more on company achievements.
Now in their third year, we are hoping the awards will be bigger and better than ever.
There really is something for everyone, with categories aimed at vendors, distributors and resellers.
For vendors there is a chance to shout about your partner programme, your partner website and your partner-facing events, along with plenty more team-based categories - it looks like the competition is going to get heated already.
For distributors there is a chance to reward the manager of the year, support team of the year, or website of the year, along with many others - we hear of the great things distributors are doing all the time, but now is your chance to really shout about it.
And finally for resellers, if you have recently invested in your website, why not enter it into our 'Website of the Year' category? Or if you are particularly proud of how you treat your staff - there is a category there for you too. Or if your sales and/or marketing teams have executed a particularly brilliant campaign - why not give them a chance to bask in the much deserved glory of a CRN SMA award?
The closing date for entries is 21 March - so please don't leave it too late to get involved.
If you are shortlisted, you will be able to battle it out on the night of 3 July at the Brewery in central London, and enjoy a great night out as well.
What is there to lose?
To find the full list of categories and submit an entry - click here.
20 Feb 2014
OK, first up, I'm delighted to have the excuse to use a picture of a dog reading a newspaper!
But on a more serious note, the PR debacle involving one now red-faced firm called House PR, left a lot of us old-school hacks shuddering in horror.
A journalist from The Telegraph - Tim Walker - released an email to The Press Gazette apparently sent from said PR firm, in relation to his accreditation for The Brit Awards ceremony at the 02.
It started off quite nicely, saying that a car would be picking up him and a colleague to take them to the venue.
But after that it got a bit more worrying, outlining the kind of coverage they were EXPECTING from the event in return for a ticket and even worse than that telling him exactly what he should be tweeting from both his brand and PERSONAL Twitter accounts. Giving helpful templates to cut and paste into Twitter.
Perhaps in the school of PR that the boss of this firm went to, this kind of expectation is the norm.
But where I come from, after nearly 17 years of journalism, this is probably one of the most worrying developments I have seen, and I fear for the future.
I will say before I launch into my rant, that for every handful of terrible PR firms there is at least one decent one that understands how the media works.
Naturally, if you are invited to an event as a journalist, you will find a way to cover the most interesting news/announcements, and in the era of social media, of course you are going to mention where you are and the key points arising. And use some sort of hashtag relating to said event.
IN YOUR OWN OPINION/WORDS AS A MEMBER OF THE FREE PRESS.
For an awards ceremony such as the Brits, there will be guaranteed copy to follow, regardless of the angle, and most journalists would have tweeted the goings on to their followers anyway. But telling a member of the press what to write and how to phrase things on social media? Really, House PR?
This of course resulted in the requested hashtag #PricelessSurprises being put to very good use by a range of Tweeters, but not exactly how the PR firm wanted.
Now to relate this to my own experience in our industry. I am seeing the rise of the controlling PR/marketing agency to a similar degree. What worries me is the amount of titles that are selling out for an easy life, particularly where advertisers are concerned.
I have always had firms come to me expecting coverage in CRN because they bought an advert in 1819, or because they are the sponsor of such and such event.
I tell them the same thing. Regardless of who they are, what they do and what they spend, if their news is worthy of coverage, they will get it.
But we will find our own angle and cover it how we see fit. It is as simple as that.
If it is unadulterated tosh that is of no value to our readers, we will not cover it.
Similarly all those PR agencies trying to crush news and control when something is covered - I am saying now on the record - if we find something out, that is true and has been verified by several trusted sources, we will run the story. We will not wait until a more convenient time for the marketing machine to kick into life.
The idea of a free press is exactly that. Free.
It is a fine line to tread, and I acknowledge we as the modern media are all having to accommodate changes to how publishing works and respect the companies that support us, but there is a way of doing it that keeps independence in tact and respect on both sides. It is certainly not to be dictated to by some PR firm that is after the maximum recharge potential from their clients.
I worry that the next generation of journalists, (and so-called bloggers who think they are journalists) are somehow being conditioned to think this is the norm and that PR firms are the ones holding the reins. Indeed this is happening more and more in the US.
Hopefully there are still enough of us senior journalists out there that can stop this rot before it really gets hold and make sure the younger ones understand how it really works.
11 Feb 2014
Microsoft's long search for a new chief executive might be over but Satya Nadella's journey is only just beginning.
It is not a job to be taken lightly, but how many would love to have a go based on the compensation package he will receive? Let's face it, how many of us would have given Vista the thumbs-up?!
His basic yearly salary will be $1.2m, paid in fortnightly installments, along with a cash bonus of up to 300 per cent of his salary as CEO each year - a further $3.6m.
And to add to that he could well pick up a stock award of $13.2m at the end of the year, providing the firm performs according to plan. That is a not-to-be-sniffed at $18m for year one.
And as part of a longer-term plan, Nadella could pick up more shares over the next 10 years - adding up to a potential 2.7 million shares worth over $100m, according to some estimates.
Now all of this is performance based - if Microsoft does well and performs well in the market, Nadella will enjoy a spiralling bank balance on a regular basis.
But if the company fails to perform under his stewardship, then he will receive his basic salary, but nothing else, thus ensuring Microsoft does not lose out.
Very clever way to employ somebody in a top position and a great way of encouraging them to always strive to achieve the best possible results.
05 Feb 2014
If rumours are to be believed, the economy is starting to pick up.
It is definitely feeling more positive out there from everyone I'm speaking to, so that is encouraging.
And that is good news for everyone either in employment or looking for employment apparently. Becasue it means a decent payrise might be on the cards, or there actually might be a job out there. I'll believe it when I see it!
But even in this period of relative uncertainty, one thing is key, and that is holding onto valuable staff. Without them, it is very difficult to keep a business running smoothly.
However I don't think many bosses will top the generosity of UKFast's chief Lawrence Jones.
Every year he hands out long service rewards to his staff, and this isn't just a bottle of cheap plonk.
For those that have done five years, they get £1,000. And those that have managed ten years' service get a whopping £10,000 cash. Jones even pays the tax on that for them.
That is a pretty amazing perk and you don't hear of it very often.
His reason for doing this is that the costs of recruiting and training someone new to a similar level woud be pretty high, so he is safeguarding his interest so to speak. It is a fair point.
I hear pretty often that people are the biggest asset to many companies, but it is a fact that some look after their staff a lot better than others.
However as times do start to pick up, employers really do need to be on their guard and instead of cost-cutting, should look at ways to keep staff happy, as good staff could well be poached by ambitious rivals looking to grow aggressively.
While few could afford to be as generous as Jones, remembering to make long-serving and hardworking staff feel valued will become even more important in any boom times ahead. Happy staff mean productivity. Unhappy staff are not good for business.
Money may not be everything in life, but few people woud fail to have a huge grin plastered on their face after being handed £10,000 tax free.
Employers take note.
30 Jan 2014
Moving house is a stressful time in anybody's life - but moving offices is equally stressful. Add a whole new way of working to the mix and it is brain freeze time!
That is something I had firsthand experience of this week as we moved from our old offices in Broadwick Street to our new office in Haymarket. Just a five-minute walk away, but a whole new world of working that's for sure.
For a start, we are now actively engaged in 'hotdesking' - something none of us journalists that make up the Incisive Media tech group are actually sure about. We have all written about it and heard about it, but never actually done it. Now we are. I am not going to say any more about that right now!
We have swanky-sounding technology to replace hard phones, and team members are being encouraged to work from home at least once a week.
As expected, day one was terrible - we had no phones, everybody came in so there was nowhere for everyone to sit, and the technology didn't quite work according to plan.
We are now coming to the end of the first week and things are settling down, but it hasn't been an easy experience for a bunch of stuck-in-their-ways hacks like us.
There are still a few teething problems with the phones - but these are being addressed, so if you call CRN and either get cut off, or can't get through, please bear with us. Always email if you are trying to get in touch as well until things smooth out.
Normal service is resuming!
22 Jan 2014
I remember a few years ago, when I was starting out as a reporter on CRN, one of my predecessors had a framed picture of a letter from a particular brand of portable cabin on the wall.
It was a legal letter and was very seriously written in a passive aggressive manner, but reading it brightened up my day considerably, no mattter how many times I read it. In fact I don't think I've read anything so petty since!
The letter basically threatened that if we so much as wrote the word again, they would start legal proceedings against us. The word belonged to them. Hint: Put Portable and Cabin together - perhaps replacing the 'c' with a 'k' and you know who I'm talking about.
This came about because the trademark owners of this particular brand actually employs someone to trawl through newspapers, magazines and now online I'm sure, to find out if anyone has used their brand without permission.
My favourite news vehicle Private Eye also went through a prolonged spate of P*** taking by using said word as a headline for all their letters page, after they received several similar letters.
Anyway, I digress - my point is - is this what the makers of Candy Crush Saga are now going to do? Because it certainly seems to be the case from early indications.
The fact that they have been allowed to trademark the word 'Candy' is ridiculous. As is the fact that they are trying to trademark the word 'Saga'.
The word Candy - although American in origin - has been used for many many years in product names and more recently gaming - in fact there are games mentioning that particular word that have been around for 10 years or more, and other brands far longer.
Along comes this upstart - yes a ridiculously successful upstart - and starts demanding that they take the word Candy out of their brand titles.
Nobody should own the rights to this word - it is a universally used word and features in the branding of many well known products - Skull Candy is one brand that springs to mind. Does this mean those walking stick-shaped Christmas sweets can no longer be called Candy Canes? They have been around for decades.
Whoever allowed this ridiculous outcome should definitely be made to explain the logic behind it. By all means trademark Candy Crush (I can't see that anyone else would want it anyway to be fair) but not the word Candy.
I hope someone fights them all the way over this ridiculous situation and those brands that feature the word Candy, refuse point blank to remove it.
I am extremely glad I never played the game once or got sucked in through friends challenging me to play on Facebook.
So just for this article I'm going to say that I work on Candy Reseller News. Candy, Candy, Candy.
06 Jan 2014
Happy New Year, one and all!
However, I have to ask, why is the first week back to work such a struggle?
After a fantastic two-week break I am finding it very hard to get my head in work mode, but give me another few days and I'm sure I will get there.
Having said that I have just come out of CRN's first planning meeting of the year and it is set to be a busy one.
Keep your eye on our events calendar because we have all the old favourites returning - CRN Fight Night, the Sales and Marketing Awards, the CRN Conference, Darts Night and of course the Channel Awards.
But there will also be a few new events including a second CRN Conference and a new exclusive evening event. More details to come soon!
And I'm sure there will be plenty more as well. And plenty of stuff that I can't even mention yet!
I am really hoping that this year will be less of a swan year for me personally (appearing calm on the surface, but paddling frantically below the waterline!) and that the year proves fruitful for our industry as the economy slowly (oh so slowly) starts to recover.
Here's to a very exciting year and I look forward to catching up with you all at various events during the next 12 months.
Of course, if you have any gossip or news in the meantime, please don't hesitate to drop me a line!
11 Dec 2013
Just like 2013 has been a year of complete change for the IT channel - so it has been for CRN.
We have always reflected the shifting landscape of the industry - and it is not surprising that there has been a lot of consolidation this year particluarly in the distributor landscape, but also in the VAR world as well. In turn this consolidates/changes our readership.
The term VAR is an interesting one - and I'm after opinions on what companies want to be described as in future - because the term 'solution provider' is not a popular one with me (far too American), but seems to be creeping in more and more! I'd be really keen to hear your thoughts on that one.
In our last issue of the year the term Varmaggedon popped its head up - not as scary as it sounds - but reflects the jouney many resellers are making to remain relevant in this era of cloud, apps and services.
And just like our readers, we are on a journey to remain relevant in this era of changing audience/sponsor demands and business models in the publishing world.
News continues to be the foundation on which we build all our offerings to the audience - and there have been some pretty big stories out their this year, the one that resonates with a lot of people is the demise of 2e2, but there are far too many others of equal importance to mention by name.
Print has also had an interesting year. The decision to finally go fortnightly this year proved to be the right move following our redesign the year before. It means our readers use Channelweb for daily news, but the magazine for a more in-depth read - just as intended. One thing we know for sure - our audience has a hunger for tailored, relevant content and we will continue to provide this in spades, both in print and online.
Our events side of the business has been an interesting one - I think it is common knowledge now that Partner Connect will not be happening any more - after many years trying to provide something to our smaller readers - and frankly with one of the best speaker line ups we have already had - we realised we were flogging a dead horse. And I for one couldn't be happier.
Smaller, more focused and tailored events are the way forward, as the success of our Channel Conference on managed services proved. Watch out for some interesting ones next year.
Fight Night was a roaring success, our Sales and Marketing Awards had a very successful year two, and the Channel Awards were the best yet judging from the feedback we have received.
One of the biggest changes to CRN this year is our foray into market research through our 'CRN Intelligence' moniker - we are not trying to compete with the incumbents, but spotted a gap in the market and are making it our own.
The success of the 2013 Vendor Report speaks for itself - no other report out there benchmarks vendors based on seven key channel performance indicators, as viewed by the partners themselves. We are currently working on the 2014 report, and would really appreciate as many people taking a few minutes to fill out our survey. It can be found here.
We also launched a Public Sector (local government) report and are working on a similar one for the Education sector - watch this space - and our Top VARs, and A-list proved as popular as ever.
I even wrote a report myself - the IT Buyers Guide - and the feedback I've had from it so far is very encouraging. We questioned 350 IT managers, 100+ financial directors and 100 VARs to get a 360-degree view of the IT buying process and how customers actually view the channel/spend their budgets. The results were very intersting indeed.
We have a lot of exciting stuff coming up in 2014 - it is definitely going to be another busy one for CRN and as soon as I can tell you all about it - I will!
However for now I'm really looking forward to a couple of weeks off and recharging batteries ready for next year.
I'd like to finish by thanking everyone for their continued support of CRN and our various events/publications/supplements/reports.
Your support and feedback means a lot, and we look forward to working with you in 2014.
Happy Christmas/festive period and a very happy and prosperous New Year.
Views - both channel related and everyday life observations - from CRN Editor Sara Yirrell. If you have any gossip that you would like to share with me please do get in touch and also we would love to see your comments at the end of the blog.