Paul Grayson on the CAD Media

The most common criticism of Alibre Design is that it cannot do this and it cannot do that. I have always found the discussions around features (or lack thereof) particularly interesting because very few get the very simple point that Alibre Design is not meant to be used for things like surfacing, analysis, etc. Alibre’s target audience is base of the pyramid. People who need to design simple prismatic parts and assemblies – professionals, small shops, DIY’ers, hobbyists and similar. I asked Paul Grayson how effective he had been in passing this message to his target audience directly or through the CAD media. This question actually opened the flood gates on Paul’s view on the CAD media. This is what he had to say:

“Messaging is a critical problem when it comes to the CAD media. I mean your visit here and your role along with others has been the only bright spot as far as messaging is concerned in the field of CAD for quite some time. The CAD industry is a very closed industry and has a very closed media model. Not all are open minded and willing to talk about things that are of true interest to users. So I don’t consider the current media layout as providing any benefit as far as conveying our message to our customers. So we have pretty much chosen to go around it. In effect, there is no CAD media market that is of interest to anybody other than a few thousand insiders. I mean, they are not reaching anybody. Particularly the magazines are dismal in this business. The old media is in the process of shutting down, as far as I can tell. I mean, you have seen the magazines. There’ s fewer of them. They are thinner. They are all controlled circulation publications and nobody reads them as far as I can tell. They are not worthy to be sold on a stand.

We advertised in print publications for a while, almost like because we felt that we had to. Then Google Adwords came along. We started experimenting with that and found that it was a vastly superior marketing opportunity which was completely measurable and the cost per lead was dramatically lower. The whole thing with the print magazines is that they are all pay for play. So if you want someone to write an article about your product, you have to advertise. And they will not write anything controversial. For example, they will not write “Alibre’s business model challenges that of Autodesk”. Frankly, I don’t even know why they exist. Other than to take money from their advertisers and maintain their mailing list.”

Since we got talking about the CAD media I let Paul know of how one CAD editor “lovingly” called me the patron saint of failing ventures or something like that when referring to the amount of digital ink I spent writing about Alibre Design. To which Paul said:

“I think they are angry at us and just want to go away. They view us as a threat because we have a different business model with different objectives and we are not paying them a regular retainer so that they will write nice stuff about us. It’s sad actually. It’s kind of depressing to me because we have to work so hard to find somebody to pay attention to what we are doing.”

I reminded Paul that whether he likes it or not, the stuff that gets written by the CAD media is read by people who may turn out to be Alibre’s prospects. So, in the interest of his company, I wondered if he thought that it would probably be wise to “play the game”. Paul replied:

“I don’t think that would buy anything for me. It would simply become a cost. If I wanted to spend $30,000 or $50,000 a month on print ads to play the game, I could do that. But I would not get anything out of it. They are surprised that we haven’t failed yet. So they are not going to give us decent coverage anyways.

Also, I think you are one of the very few people I know that use CAD software. I don’t think most of the people writing in magazines even know how to use the CAD software that they write about or can even understand the market to begin with.

So I guess we are like the Rodney Dangerfield of the CAD industry. We can’t get respect (Ha! Ha!). But does not mean that we have no value.

This really goes back to the fact that our business model is so radically different that they view it as a threat. Because if our business model were to be embraced by others, it would turn over the industry, including the magazines. The magazines are going out anyways.”

  • Matt Lombard

    Grayson is right about the CAD media not getting it. I think they don't understand that there is a valid place in the market for a product like Alibre. I think a lot of CAD users have also been brainwashed into thinking that they need a 3D modeler that does all sorts of things that they never use.

    He's also right that the cad media never step out on a limb and say anything that isn't already conventional wisdom. Being willing to use colorful language or schoolyard name calling is not the kind of controversy the cad press needs to rebuild credibility or earn respect.

  • Name

    Great article Deelip!

    Well said Paul, I wish more businesses would embrace the model you have caught me with. I AM a CAD person and I have added Alibre to my collection of business tools because I could afford to. I like to compare what you have done to the McDonald's model – Billions Served because it is affordable to the masses.

    In the realm of software, maybe you could give Adobe a kick in the pants and tell them they might get more sales if they would quit gouging. This year I will be skipping the upgrade to CS4 because of cost.

    Best wishes for continued success!

    Don Cheke

  • Strange that Paul is very quick to dismiss the press, yet he doesn't engage with them, that he perceives what they do as worthless. That's all fair comment and he's entitled to his opinion.

    But I'll comment on two things.

    The first is that old standard of “pay for play”. I've never worked on a magazine that's done that, never will and neither will the team I work alongside. Sure, they exist, but as he said, no-one reads them, no-takes any notice. But don't tar everyone with the same brush.

    Second thing is that he finds it depressing that they “have to work so hard to find somebody to pay attention to what we are doing.” I find that strange that he can say that. We've never had a single enquiry from Alibre since the former CEO left. I'd welcome it and maybe change Paul's mind and attitude to something that I still see huge value in – if he wants to get in touch, feel free to introduce us Deelip.

    Al, Editor, DEVELOP3D.

    PS: Matt. If you want to make snide remarks. Just do it. I don't mind if you use my name. Really. Not a problem.

  • > For example, they will not write “Alibre’s business model
    > challenges that of Autodesk”.

    Unlike Autodesk, Alibre keeps its numbers (seats, revenues, profits) secret. So magazines have no way of knowing whether Mr Grayson's statement is valid or vanity.

  • jpaulgrayson

    Hi Al,

    I visited London in April 2008 after speaking to Martyn Day at COFES and requesting a meeting with him in London. I followed-up by email and called his contact numbers numbers several time but never received a response.

    I have not been to London since that trip, but would welcome the opportunity to meet with you next time I do. I have been on several international press tours as CEO of Alibre and frankly find the “pay for play” even worse in Europe than in the US.

    In addition, the only coverage of Alibre in Develop3D that I am aware of was when you questioned the sustainability of our company in your blog at….

    During the last year, I responded to many requests from press and bloggers regarding the $99 price offer. Frankly, I was very surprised and disappointed that you chose to question our very survival and implicitly warn people not to risk building their business on our software, without bothering to inquire about our plans or seek clarification.

  • jpaulgrayson

    Hi Ralph,

    It is standard practice for private companies to keep their financial data private. This is true of every other private company in the software business as well. Solidworks kept their data private and recently AutoDesk and Dassault stopped providing quarterly seat sales data.

    Obviously, AutoDesk and Dassault are much larger than Alibre. If we did provide financial data you can be certain that most people would try to use it against us by comparing us to numbers many times our size. This is no different than a feature comparison with the intent of casting doubt on the smaller company, while turning the conversation away from more meaningful differences in business model and strategy.


    • It is standard practice for private companies to release whatever information they choose. Here are examples:

      When UGS (now part of Siemens) was owned by private equity, they released full figures, as if they were publicly owned.

      Privately-owned Bentley Systems releases an annual report every year.

      Privately-owned ASCON issued its first annual report this year.

      Even much-smaller-than-Alibre upFront.eZine Publishing reports its subscriber and reader numbers of its news publications, as do most other privately-owned CAD publications.

      In keeping with the theme from other editors, Alibre has been featured many times in upFront.eZine — without Alibre needing to take out an $320 ad or buying a $250 reprint — going back to 30 Nov ’99: Ref

      And a tip of the hat to paper magazine publishers. I do not envy the tough job they have these days, and admire their hard work.

  • Mr. Grayson, to set the record straight, did your company have to purchase an ad in trade for the Alibre Design case study published by Cadalyst in February? (No.) Or for the Alibre news items we published in recent months? (No, no, no.) Or for the last review we conducted of Alibre Design or any other Alibre-related content published in the magazine or online? The answer is always no, because Cadalyst doesn't play that game. Your comments to the contrary are unfounded.

    As for your accusation about the media not being CAD users, that too is without merit. Many if not most prominent writers and editors in our field are CAD users first. Most of those who are not users have more knowledge and expertise about the technology and the market than just about any user out there.

    Does anyone find it curious that essentially no end users/readers participate in these discussions? It's because all this doesn't matter to them. They will follow the publications that deliver what they need, and those publications that don't deliver will go away. Deelip can regurgitate the topic, Matt can chime in with another jab, Al will be a champ once more at maintaining some professionalism even though I know what he must really want to say, and I'll stay up past midnight trying to compose a comment that defends my dignity … when the only person who has any real say in the matter — the reader — is busy being productive partly because of what we, the media, do.

    Nancy Johnson

  • Leslie Gordon

    I have featured Alibre several times, and even plan on using it as one of the sources for an upcoming article. I think it is disingenuous for the company to bash traditional CAD media, yet not hesitate to take advantage of its exposure. And why must you journalists who target online venues continue to say trade magazines are dead? That is mean and not fair. Don’t forget, some of us journalists work hard to provide a balanced and fair view, even letting the “little guys” (read non-advertisers) have their say. And some of us happen to be your friends.

    Leslie Gordon
    Machine Design

  • Nancy: “Deelip can regurgitate the topic”

    True, I often write about the media. But to be fair, this time I simply asked Paul how effective he had been in conveying the message that Alibre Design is for people at the base of the pyramid. The fact that he chose to reply with the way he did was entirely his call.

    Leslie: “And why must you journalists who target online venues continue to say trade magazines are dead?”

    I am not sure which part of the interview or comments you are referring to here. That is Paul's view, not mine. You guys are very much alive. I meet you people and read your stuff all the time.

  • Deelip, that's a copout! This is your blog and you decide what runs and what doesn't. Just because someone has a thought doesn't mean they should speak it, and just because someone says something doesn't mean you should publish it. It's called editing. When you publish something, you're putting your stamp on it and saying you think it has value. Having this discussion, when based on misperception and untruths, is harmful to the CAD community. Do what's right, then stand behind your decisions.

  • Nancy,

    This is exactly the problem I see with some of you. When I interview someone I do not censor the persons views. Maybe you do and I think that is a bad thing. To me editing is putting content in proper form or maybe making it concise or summarizing something really long. Editing does not involve taking something that someone said, keeping the parts that you like and throwing away the rest. That is a sick thing to do and would not tolerate someone doing that to me.

    If Paul said that magazines are useless, that is his view and it will stay there. You and others are free to comment back saying that Alibre is useless and it will stay there. I will not edit (or rather censor) what either of you, unless it takes the color of personal attacks.

    My interviews are about that someone said and not what I agree with someone said. If this is the way journalists work, then I don't want to be one.

  • No one is asking you to censor anyone, Deelip. But some if not most of Paul Grayson's comments are untrue and unfounded, and you know that to be so because it's come up here before and we've gone round and round about it. By publishing these unsubstantiated generalizations again and again, the blogosphere perpetuates the untruths. Opinions are great, but not if they are based on inaccurate information. By contrast, if an anti-Deelip topic arose on Cadalyst and you proved the statements to be false, and I felt they were harmful to your business or reputation, and repeating them had no value whatsoever, you can bet those statements would not see the light of day again if someone new voiced them to me in some meeting, regardless of whose opinion it was or how many times it was repeated. In fact, I'd probably defend you and set the person straight.

  • Nancy,

    How am I supposed to know if what either of you are saying is true or not, no matter how many times you say it? Do I have access to either of your business processes? Do I know what goes on internally at Alibre or at Cadalyst? No.

    I am here to report the news and maybe comment about it. At the most I may decide what is newsworthy. But I am not here to edit the news to suit my views. This is not a repetition. Paul has never spoken about the CAD media on this blog before. He has never spoken about how the CAD media is not a part of his business model, a first for a CAD vendor that I know of. In fact, I do not recollect reading his views on the CAD media anywhere else either.

    PR people like Rachael Taggart have come on record on this blog to say that “pay for play” exists in the CAD media. If you have a problem with Paul tarring everyone with the same brush, then challenging Paul like the way you did in your comment is a good thing. This is a real problem in the industry and whether you like it or not, readers care about how they spend their time reading stuff because there is so much content out there.

  • Bill

    I am a user of Alibre, SolidWorks 2003, and AutoCAD 2002. (We obviously do not think of subscription fees as 'mandatory', at my place of employment.) Even though (except for Alibre) I use 'old' CAD software, I do like to keep in touch with the latest things going on in the CAD industry. Virtually all of my CAD news comes from three places: Deelip's blog, Ralph Grabowski's WorldCAD Access blog and his UpFront Ezine, and Matt Lombards 'DezignStuff' blog. (I guess that is actually four places!) I believe that these sources give me as unbiased a view of the CAD industry as I am likely to find.

    As an Alibre user, I have been following Deelip's interviews with Paul Grayson and Max Freeman with great interest, along with the comments on these blog postings. I have to say I am absolutely thunderstruck by Nancy Johnson's definition of 'editing'. At least in my mind, her outrageous suggestions that Deelip should have censored (yes, that is INDEED the proper word) his interview with Paul Grayson make me far less inclined to read and believe 'CADalyst' magazine than anything Paul Grayson said.

    I am extremely grateful that there are sites such as Deelip's blog where I can read 'uncensored' interviews that accurately reflect what the interviewed person said. I wholeheartedly agree with Deelip that 'keeping the things you like and throwing away the rest' in printing an interview is 'a sick thing to do'.

    Deelip, I admire your journalistic integrity. God bless you!

  • I have not seen any evidence here or anywhere that Cadalyst (or Develop3D for that matter, or any other named publication) practice pay for play — not from you, not from Paul Grayson, not from Rachel, not from anyone. That's how you know. Yet you continue to publish statements that throw this stone at the “traditional media” which by default includes my publication and many others that work very hard to be fair, objective, reputable, and professional. Editing is about more than chopping out extra words; it's about making informed decisions regarding what provides value to the reader and the CAD community and not publishing every inflammatory comment just because someone said it out loud. Unless you can provide evidence that Cadalyst (or anyone else) does pay for play or offer up some facts that support any of the other derogatory stereotypes repeated here, you are just allowing untruths to proliferate, and that in my opinion is unfair and irresponsible. One email sent to you from an anonymous publisher in Europe and one vague statement from Rachel are not evidence that “the traditional CAD media does pay for play.”

  • >>”'keeping the things you like and throwing away the rest' in printing an interview is 'a sick thing to do'.”

    Those are Deelip's generalizations, not my words, just to be clear. I don't select parts of an interview to publish based on “what I like,” I do it based on what tells the story most accurately and concisely. There are lots of things I read and hear that I don't publish, and there are a million reasons why not. If a reader doesn't find value in Cadalyst content, then he or she can and will go elsewhere, and that's fine, because we all can't be all things to all readers.

    I too admire Deelip (most of the time) and respect the role of bloggers and tweeters in the CAD community. It keeps us all on our toes and in the end provides lots of options and makes for a better overall experience for progressive CAD users like Bill.

  • Nancy,

    Maybe you are forgetting that I am a software developer myself and had got my fair share of “pay for play” offers over the years. Needless to say, those offers have stopped since I have started writing about the issue on this blog. However, there is one printed magazine that still sends me their press kit which clearly offers an “editorial package” that offers to publish the text that I give them in their editorial along with the purchase of ad space. Large the ad, more the text I can squeeze in the editorial.

    No, I am not going to take names and I do not agree with Paul tarring everyone with the same brush. But as far as pay for play existing, I know it does. I have absolutely no doubt about that.

  • MC

    Over the past eight years as a CAD user, I possibly picked up four or five CAD magazines. I probably found less than a handful of the articles to be interesting enough to read them through to conclusion. Most of the content almost put me to sleep, and I am a pretty big tech and CAD geek. I recently (in the last five or six months) began discovering CAD blogs. I mostly read and DEVELOP3D, but I am beginning to read some others as well. I find that most of the content of these blogs is very interesting. I believe this is due, in large part, to a lack of over editing and a willingness to push the limits. I happen to like the fact that people like Deelip show some backbone and put it all on the table. It is ok for an editor to decide what stories are included in her or his brand of media, but I don’t think it is ok to edit content out of a conversation story such as this. I as a reader want to read what the interviewee said (word-for-word) and not some editor’s synopsis. I have to agree with Bill. If Nancy’s definition of “Editing” is the norm in CAD print media, then I am not interested.

  • Nancy Johnson

    I hope everyone who reads this thread reads the later one as well (, where Paul Grayson states that some of his comments above were “inadvertent” and do not apply to the entire traditional CAD media. (He refers specifically to Cadalyst and a few others.) I am grateful see a post that offers some specifics that give us a much better understanding of his views and avoids generalizations that made it “interesting” but, as he explains, not entirely accurate.

  • Nancy Johnson

    I hope everyone who reads this thread reads the later one ( as well, where Paul Grayson states that some of his comments above were “inadvertent” and do not apply to the entire traditional CAD media. (He refers specifically to Cadalyst and a few others.) I am grateful to see a post that offers some specifics on this subject, giving us a much better understanding of his views and avoiding generalizations that made it “interesting” but, as it turns out, not entirely accurate.

  • cmscad

    I've to say I found this blog discussion extremely interesting. I occasionally read some topics when I've the extra time, but this one really caught my attention to the point of expressing a short comment.

    Blogging is definitely opinion making, and a one-sided perspective of things. Far way from journalism I suppose.
    Nevertheless, Deelips blog is a great source of “what's happening”, sometimes providing a wider perspective than some CAD magazines are able to do by focusing on “user needs”.

    I've found that some CAD magazines, definitely are not an expression of journalism as well. Still, I can understand their behavior.

  • Nancy Johnson

    Really great observations. Wish I knew your name, but thank you.

  • cmscad

    Oh, you're right! Sorry for that.
    Vitor Neves
    CMS, Inc.

  • MC

    Aside from reading this post, I read the following posts from “Paul Grayson on Pay for Play,” “Pay for Play,” “Content is King,” and “Changing Times for the CAD Media.” After reading the posts and all of the comments, here are some observations and thoughts:

    cmscad: “Blogging is definitely opinion making, and a one-sided perspective of things. Far away from journalism I suppose.”

    • (Nancy and cmscad) There is no such thing as unbiased or totally fair and balanced media. The editors can do their best to minimalize the bias, but no matter the medium, as long as humans are involved, there will always be bias to some degree. To think that all CAD blogs are more opinionated and one-sided than all traditional CAD media is uninformed.

    • (Nancy and cmscad) Most traditional CAD media is for profit. The profit generally comes from ads. As we all know from watching other businesses, whoever pays, has the say (or at least some influence in the say). Therefore, for profit media will always have some outside influence over their content, even if they do not practice “pay for play.” However, I believe most people expect this, so if your content is worth anything, then there is no need to worry.

    • (Nancy) Neither Deelip nor anyone else mentioned any CAD magazine or blog by name in any of these posts. They did not indict “Cadalyst” specifically with regard to “pay for play”. Since Cadalyst does not practice “Pay for Play,” you have nothing to defend. Therefore, I do not understand your defensive posture in your comments.

    • (Nancy) On the “Pay for Play” post you made the comment, “I commented previously that we should end the “traditional media vs blogger” debate because I believe there's a place for everyone.” If you really believe this, then you would not encourage comments like that above (as you did in your reply to ‘cmscad’). Perhaps you like to keep the debate alive because it generates more free press for your magazine.

    • (Nancy) I don’t understand your issue with Deelip posting Paul Grayson’s original interview in its entirety. According to the “Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary” definition of the word ‘journalism’ below, 2b, Deelip is practicing journalism. The “fact” is Paul Grayson made the comments in the interview. Although some of Paul’s original comments may or may not be factual, the fact is Deelip posted the comments “without an attempt at interpretation”. The fact is Deelip gave Paul the opportunity to clarify his comments and he did so. The comments made by Paul in both posts are Paul’s opinion, not Deelip’s. If Deelip had made those statements in this post without any supporting evidence, then I could understand your journalistic concerns. (Side note: If all political media refused to print, broadcast, or post any non-factual statements made by politicians, then they would produce little content.)

    Main Entry: jour·nal·ism
    Function: noun
    Date: 1828
    1 a : the collection and editing of news for presentation through the media b : the public press c : an academic study concerned with the collection and editing of news or the management of a news medium

    2 a : writing designed for publication in a newspaper or magazine b : writing characterized by a direct presentation of facts or description of events without an attempt at interpretation c : writing designed to appeal to current popular taste or public interest.

    • There is room for all media. Consume the media you like, ignore the rest.

  • Unbiased media? Ha! That's a load of crap. Although some call me independent, I prefer to think that I am biased as well. I partner with all the CAD vendors and have access to their API and internal processes. As a result, I do write what I want to actually write about them. And when I do I have to double check that I am not violating any NDA that I have signed with them. I fully understand that I walk a fine line. And frankly, I think I am enjoying it. 😉

  • MC

    You should enjoy it.

  • Bill

    I have enjoyed both reading Deelip's interviews with Paul Grayson (as well as Paul Grayson's comments where he retracted some of what he said), as well as our discussion of what he said in the comments that followed the interviews. I found it very interesting that our discussion surrounding Paul Grayson's comments on the CAD media was actually referenced in an article on Matt Lombard's Dezignstuff blog ( It makes me feel like we are all a little bit famous!

  • Charles Culp

    I am an end user. I do not comment on Deelip's blog because I don't have any insight to add to discussions like this. I do, however, read. I don't read cadalyst though. Unfortunately, after your comments, I now won't want to.

    Any publication that edits the interviewees, either partially or in total, to ensure they don't contain comments that the editor doesn't agree with is not the publication for me. If the article is presented as an interview or a news item editorialization is not appreciated and unethical.

    I am fully comfortable where the interviewer quotes the interviewee appropriately, and then comments themself about how they disagree. This is what typically happens in print media. Matt Lombard has gotten blacklisted for it. Wired magazine does it all the time.

    What's great about blogs like this? Deelip doesn't even need to. He can just quote the interview, and the commentors at the bottom of the page are happy to mock them by themselves.

    I do read Design News Magazine and occasionally Develop3D. I usually quickly skim over the parts about CAD. I also get a plethora of useless paper mailed to me every month.

  • Anon

    When a blog or a magazine runs an interview in its entirety, without edits, it's called “advertising.” Even if they do it for free.

    When a blog or a magazine runs a free unedited interview with an executive from one of its major business partners, it's called “pandering.”

    When a blog or a magazine runs an interview that clearly has been edited, and then claims that it has not been edited, it's called “lying.”

    When a blogger presents himself as a journalist, but is actually writing in support of his company, that's called “misrepresentation.”

  • Rajesh Bhattacharya

    When some adds a comment to a blog containing infinite wisdom and signs as Anon, that wisdom is called infinite stupidity and that person is called an idiot.

  • murda

    I've found that Alibre Design is quite similar in capability to CorelCAD, later to become TurboCAD Solid Modeler. That product started RRPing at $1499, then reduced to $499 before being discontinued in favour of non-parametric TurboCAD, ten years ago or more now. I saw some mention of Solid Modeler in CAD magazines at the time, but no “road tests”, and never a feature comparison with any other applications, much less value-for-money comparisons. Stigmatised by a price regarded as “too low to be credible” or a victim of the “who's buying our advertising space?” question. I think it's pertinent to Alibre that IMSI used general computer magazines' cover CDs, not specialist CAD publications, to offer older-version-giveaways and current-version-trials to eventually promote non-parametric TurboCAD into the consumer-retail leader.

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