Broadband's Storyteller

For cable engineers, Cathy Wilson's Library was long overdue

People call her “The Cable Girl.” It's a moniker Cathy Wilson wears proudly as she enters her fourth decade involved with industry trade publications.

“I am pretty much all about cable,” she says from her home office in Englewood, Colo., where for 10 years she has overseen publication of Broadband Library, an independent trade publication for members of the Society of Cable Telecommunication Engineers (SCTE).

The winner of this year's Vanguard Award for Associates and Affiliates, Wilson is a cable-industry mainstay. A member of the NCTA Cable TV Pioneers Class of 2000, she ended up in the profession by mistake. After getting married, she and her husband, David, moved to Colorado in 1977 so that he could attend law school. Her first job there was working for a video dating service. A graduate of Purdue University who later earned a masters in education counseling from the University of Arizona, Wilson put her people skills to work selling ads to local business leaders.

She ended up meeting Bob Titsch, co-founder with Paul S. Maxwell of Cablevision magazine and Multichannel News, both of which later became Reed Business Information publications. Maxwell hired her as one of the few women at the time to be selling advertising, and she found her niche with a large group of like-minded professionals.

“Denver was the cable capital back then,” Wilson remembers. The industry was hot, with some Cablevision issues weighing in at 450 pages. Her business was so competitive and demanding that she took only a week's worth of maternity leave for the birth of each of her daughters, who are now in their 20s.

Eventually, cable operators left Colorado, and the original Titsch Publishing group scattered. Wilson notes that almost all of her former colleagues ended up doing big things in the industry. Maxwell went on to found Multichannel News and Communications Engineering and Design (CED), where Wilson worked for 18 years and which is also now a Reed publication. Paul Fitzpatrick became COO of Crown Media Holdings and the Hallmark Channel, Brian Lamb founded C-SPAN, and Hugh Panera is president/CEO of XM Satellite Radio.

Wilson founded Broadband Library in 1998, she says, “because I was about the only one who hadn't started something.”

The original goal of the publication was to serve as a product guide for engineers, and the magazine was exclusively for members of SCTE.

The magazine had long lists of the latest equipment and technologies in alphabetical order with pictures and vendor information.

“All of a sudden, it started growing,” she says. Still an exclusive for SCTE members, Wilson's guides now top 100 pages in each quarter, and she puts out a full-fledged magazine along with the data. Early on, writers were asking to do articles for her, and she branched out to essays, photo spreads and analysis but purposely kept the quarterly light on news briefs that are just rehashes of press releases.

“It's always been about stories,” she says, “people telling the broadband story through their words.”

Now, with a staff of four that includes her key editor Elaine Callahan, she also publishes an international quarterly. One recent feature that has done well was a photo spread of engineers and their families. “Why do people like to read us?” Wilson asks. “Because we're fun.”

She has a guest editor for every issue and columns by top names in the industry, which, over the years, have included John Malone and Leo Hindery. A true salesperson, she also goes heavy on gifts, giveaways and networking. “We do very creative promotions, like plaques for new advertisers with a picture of the ad on our page,” she says. “I want to have people remember us.”

Wilson doesn't just network for herself but also has a reputation for getting people new jobs. “She's one of these people who stay connected. Once you know Cathy, you'll always know Cathy,” says Kimberly Maki, executive director of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers and former VP of SCTE. “She's probably the most energetic business person I've ever met.”

Wilson made her biggest splash with a special issue in winter 2005-06 dedicated to stories about Hurricane Katrina, with personal accounts from engineers and other cable personnel who suffered through the storm. She went on an ad-selling blitz that raised more than $50,000.

“We sold advertising to MSOs and vendors and gave the revenue to the systems devastated by the storm,” she says. “Most people do this after expenses; I did mine before.”

Her impetus was a firsthand look at how bad things were when she traveled to New Orleans to rescue her younger daughter, who attended Tulane.

“I took a big hit personally, but it felt really good,” she says. “It was my best work.”