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Friday, September 05, 2008

The Future of Publishing, Computing the Magazine

We noted the merger of IT Week and Computing a few weeks ago. Now its publisher Graham Harman, is interviewed in Press Gazette and his argument dissembled by Peter Kirwan.

Harman says lots of things in his interview with which this author would agree,

You can’t just stick to the old practices and say ‘that will do’.” and

You have to say to yourself: ‘If I was launching into this market now what would I do?’” and

We have seen the writing on the wall the way that the revenue models and the way that the information needs of our readers has changed, and we’ve decided that we need to do this now"

What happens in the tech sector is often a lead indicator for what will happen in other b2b markets - so we should take all this seriously. Twenty years ago, the professional IT press was hugely profitable, with 50 to 100 pages of job ads published each week in each of the two main weekly titles. Today, Computing is a shadow of its former self with just a couple of pages of job ads and a declining display revenue.

I am beginning to think that Peter Kirwan and I should go into businsess together, as I find it hard, as usual, to disagree with his point that if Incisive was to act in the way its analysis suggests, the weekly magazine would be killed off today. No one, he argues, would launch a weekly IT title today so why keep the ailing beast alive? There is more to it than wanting to squeeze the last drop of profit from print though. There is also pride. Computing has fought a bitter war over thrity years with Reed rival CW and, rather like competing generals in WW1 trenches, nobody is going to give an inch to the other even nothing is to be gained by winning a point of share or foot of territory from the other.

What is need here is some management bravery and to honestly answer the challenge that Harman puts, which is, in terms, to imagine what you do if you were launching today - and then do that. It is only a question of time before Computing closes. It might not be this year or even next, but close it surely will. In the meantime huge management time and effort will be devoted to keeping its heart beating at the expense of developing the new model.

Incisive are showing the first signs of realising that the publishing game is up. Theyhave noticed that print is dying. They believe it but haven't yet come to terms with it. They have a real opportunity to set the lead and build a new future whilst their competitors are still pretending that this is just a cycle and a course of anti biotics will cure them. Will they take it? Will any of you?

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At 2:28 am, Blogger Thad McIlroy said...

I agree with you broadly, but don't think that we should read too much into the early demise of so many computing magazines because of the Web. Computing, IT, etc. was such a natural to fall first, because the folks who read these magazines are by nature technology-savvy, and quite happy to move to the Web for more up-to-date and in-depth coverage.

When do you think Architectural Digest and Vogue will give up their print editions?

I cover all of this on my site,


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