20 Years of CE Pro: How it All Began
Julie Jacobson at EH Publishing’s first office in Wayland, Mass., 1994
Ken Moyes was CEO of a $110 million security distribution company called Arius when I joined the company in 1990 in a marketing role.
A few years later, Ken and I launched a home automation division called Home Systems Plus, led by Richard Goldman, who was then one of the biggest HAI and Unity Systems dealers in the country. (Unity was founded by Tom Riley, who gets my vote as “father of home automation.”)
Ken stumbled across this dinky little magazine (more like a pamphlet) called Electronic House on the newsstand. He thought the brand would be useful for Arius, so he called the publisher hoping to work something out. The publisher basically told Ken, “Just take it.” And he did.
Arius didn’t want any part of it, so Ken bought it himself and sat on it, letting editor Lisa Montgomery continue to run editorial as she had done almost since 1986, when the first issue of EH was published.
Ken and I would muse that all of these consumers (well, all 12 who subscribed to EH) were being teased by this new technology called home automation, but they had no idea how to get their hands on the stuff. In other words, there was no formal installation channel. While CEDIA was founded in 1989, the organization didn’t really gain visibility until the mid-1990s, and there was certainly no publication serving this nascent channel.
So we figured we’d build a channel, tapping into our old security database. In 1993, we sent dealers special issues of Electronic House with a section called H.A. Pro. It gave Home Systems Plus, and other emerging trade partners, a venue to promote themselves to would-be customers.
Arius was sold in 1994. Ken left and I had to decide whether to stay or go. During breakfast at a local diner, Ken sketched his vision of EH Publishing on a napkin. Trite but true. He said he would take the plunge if I went with him. Otherwise, he’d pass.
The numbers and trajectories he sketched looked promising, but that’s Ken. There’s a term for his optimism. It’s called the Moyes Multiplier. But I went along.
I asked him how you run a publishing business. He replied, “I don’t know, we’ll figure it out. I guess I’ll be the publisher and you’ll be the editor.”
So here we are. Lisa Montgomery is still at Electronic House. She remains today one of the best reporters in the home technology field. I’m pretty sure I asked her on day one: How do you write a story? I still ask her that from time to time.
First telephone call: We just plugged in our phone when the first call came in. I told Ken: You answer the phone. He said: You answer the phone. He won. The caller asked: How do I cancel my subscription to Electronic House?
First email: I signed up for AOL in 1996 and emailed Richard Goldman. He was the only one I knew who had an email address.
Lisa Montgomery and I Fed-Exed floppy discs to each other for the first few years of co-editing the magazines. Edits were made via fax. We got high-tech in 1996, sharing articles via email. Her AOL handle was lisaehouse, and mine was jjehouse. I think they’re both still active.
We hired current CE Pro editor Jason Knott in 2000 from Security Sales magazine. He was my press contact when I was with Arius and was the brightest in the bunch of security editors. I had to work him a couple of years before he agreed to uproot himself and his wife from L.A. and move to Boston. We’d be dead without him. Well, I would be.
Oh, and remember Tom Riley of Unity Systems? He served as ambassador to Morocco from 2003 to 2009. We still keep in touch.
Nowadays, EH Publishing includes Electronic House, CE Pro and these other brands: Commercial Integrator, Worship Facilities Expo, Live Sound, Pro Sound Web, Channel Pro, Robotics Trends, Logistics Management, Supply Chain Management and a handful of others.