Rex Hammock and Valleywag tip us off to Sam Whitmore’s MediaSurvey piece on the closure of InfoWorld’s magazine operation.
Though still rumor at this point, the news doesn’t surprise me one bit. The “enterprise fleet”, as former IDG President Pat Kenealy once descibed the combo of InfoWorld, Networkworld, Computerworld, and the CXO titles, was a crowded space within the company not to mention amongst the amazingly dense collection of print titles across the market at places like CMP, Ziff, etc.
When I was at InfoWorld, there were countless discussions about how to work together and compete with Computerworld, a “sister” publication that operates in Boston. We found a nice complementary relationship online where InfoWorld focused on products and Computerworld focused on news. That position may still work for them, but they’ll have to find a way to pay for the research involved in reviewing enterprise-scale hardware and software. It ain’t cheap or easy.
If they can’t pay for it with the niche-level advertising, then everyone in the market is worse off. Somebody somewhere needs to pay InfoWorld fair market value for the analysis they have provided in the past.
Fair market value will not likely be as attractive as it used to be. It may not pay for lavish sales offsites and fat expense budgets. But the market for it is real nonetheless.
If the rumor is true, then IDG is doing a smart thing even if merely experimenting with the model for how to move entirely online for the rest of the “fleet”. Somebody had to step forward, and InfoWorld is as well positioned to make that transition as anybody.
They’ve figured out some clever ways to package and sell podcasting, screencasts, RSS, newsletters and lead generation programs even if only as a loss leader for larger bundles of ad impressions.
They need to continue the progression and start baking their valuable data and services into strategic distribution points (how about IDG’s 300 other web sites around the world to start…?) and find ways to integrate their offline events business into the online experience as a form of collaboration, social networking and participation.
It seems to me that they are better off (at least a little) than the San Francisco Chronicle where the Editor-in-Chief is waving a white flag:
I’m hearing rumors that the San Francisco Chronicle is in big trouble. Apparently, Phil Bronstein, the editor-in-chief, told staff in a recent “emergency meeting” that the news business “is broken, and no one knows how to fix it.”
My fingers are crossed for the InfoWorld guys. And it’s hard not to feel bad for them, despite failing to value their star performer, Jon Udell, who left recently for Microsoft.
IDG has been a deer in the headlights of the Internet 18-wheeler for years. I can imagine this is the first of many similar moves that will happen this year across the whole print market.
Did Infoworld just get slaughtered or saved? And who will be next?
UPDATE: Rafat Ali of PaidContent says this is no rumor. He added, “The worst thing: the staff internally didn’t know about this until this story came out.” Yikes.
SFGate’s Tech Chronicles says, “The announcement is due out Monday.”
Scott Karp observes, “there’s a big gap between a B2B magazine making the transition [to an online-only publishing business] and a local newspaper making it across the chasm. But we’ve got to start somewhere.”
Shel Israel looks back on InfoWorld the magazine with nostalgia, “It was a must-read for the entire IT industry every Monday morning…The death of this publication does not surprise me, but it also does not make me particularly happy.”
Jim Forbes runs through InfoWorld’s editorial history, “In its more than 20-year life, this magazine has been the launchpad for several notable computer journalists including Stewart Alsop, Maggie Canon, John Dvorak, Jonathan Sacks, Ziff Brother’s Investment counselor Michael Miller, PBS’ Mark Stephens (who left InfoWorld with the name of the magazine’s fictional field editor and gossip columnist, Robert Cringely) as well as New York Times technology journalists Laurie Flynn and John Markoff.” He leaves out influential and talented journalists like Steve Gillmor, Jon Udell, Eric Knorr, and current EIC Steve Fox.
PR 2.0 blogger Brian Solis adds, “Knowing Steve Fox and Ephraim Schwartz personally, they will ensure that it continues to be a top information source for IT professionals who rely on qualified news and hands-on reviews.”
Jon Udell offers an empathetic shoulder, “as someone who’s loved and lost a magazine, I just want to say to my friends there who were blindsided and are losing sleep over this: Been there, done that, it’s no fun, good luck.”
John Battelle notes the operating cost savings of going online-only but recognizes the challenge ahead, “When I was running The Standard, InfoWorld was a sister publication, and a good one at that. I really hope the publication thrives online, but its owner, IDG, will have to take painful measures to make it relevant in a world where coverage is owned by online pubs and blogs already deep in the flow…Good luck, guys.”
Tom Murphy hates the blogosphere coverage so far, “News that the print issue of InfoWorld is no more, while not a terrible shock, is very sad. Of course what’s sadder may be the cacophony of Web 2.0 folks pointing their fingers and shouting ‘I told you so’….”. I’m sure this post isn’t helping with that, though that’s not my intent here. Sorry if that’s what it sounds like I’m saying.
David Churbuck says this move fits with IDG’s long term strategy, “it’s not a big surprise, nor, does it mean anything especially dire or negative about the ongoing strength of the InfoWorld franchise online. I was at IDG two years ago, I knew its managers and editors, and the plan at IDG was to go hard in the direction of online at all possible velocity.”
InfoWorld contributor Phil Windley assesses the personnel moves, “Steve Fox, InfoWorld’s Editor-in-Chief has said that very few layoffs will occur since most people will simply work on the online version or the events side of the business (a big focus lately). I suspect those let go will be people who’s expertise is in Quark and other print-only skills.”
UPDATE 2: InfoWorld EIC Steve Fox makes the announcement formal on the Techwatch blog, “Yes, the rumors are true. As of April 2, 2007, InfoWorld is discontinuing its print component. No more printing on dead trees, no more glossy covers, no more supporting the US Post Office in its rush to get thousands of inky copies on subscribers’ desks by Monday morning (or thereabouts). The issue that many of you will receive in your physical mailbox next week — vol. 29, issue 14 — will be the last one in InfoWorld’s storied 29-year history.”
IDG’s Colin Crawford puts the news into perspective amongst several intentional and determined moves down this path, “Recently InfoWorld’s revenue has been predominantly driven by its online and events business. Print no longer is the major product line at InfoWorld. So while the closure of a 27-year print publication is somewhat newsworthy, it is also a natural step in a plan that was put in place 2 years ago”
InfoWorld.com GM Virginia Hines explains how the transition unfolded up to this point, “Over a year ago, we began sharply differentiating the web business from the magazine with a focus on the Web 2.0 cornerstones of community, multimedia, and interactivity. Once we started building those three principles into our web presence the result was so much more compelling and engaging for advertisers and audience alike that the ink-on-paper magazine version paled in comparison. ”
Paul McNamara of InfoWorld’s sister publication Networkworld worries about the future of other IDG publications, “Network World will continue to produce a print edition for the foreseeable future, I am told. In general, I no longer make predictions about the future of print magazines and newspapers, although, I suppose if you were to read the handwriting, you’d find it not on the wall but online.”
IDG President Bob Carrigan adds that IDG has no plans to eliminate any other print titles, but “the trends are not good for print . . . we’re quickly moving to a place where print is not going to be the predominant revenue stream for us.”