They Kill Magazines, Don't TheyPatrick Lannigan - Spring 2003
The Web dominated the technology trade press in 1996. Every week it was Web Web Web. Before that time, I read magazines from cover to cover. Information Week and PC Week were, what I considered, the heavy hitters. What they said mattered. The Web, it seemed, was also the beginning of the end of those magazines. No longer was I dependent on them as my only source of technology news. Around this same time the Wall Street Journal started its online operations, by paid subscription only. It became the first thing I read every morning. At the same time dozens, then hundreds, then thousands of technology news sites popped up. On Yahoo Finance you could get news related to the specific companies you wanted to track. That became my second read every morning. Day by day, week by week, my magazine reading habit diminished until I read virtually all my technology news online.
Last week (June 2003) I saw, for the first time in many years, what magazines like Information Week and PC Week had become. My jaw hit the floor. Information Week is now the size of a comic book. PC Week is anorexic too. I'm still in a state of disbelief, yet I shouldn't be. I only have to track my own reading habits to find first hand evidence of the irrelevance of those magazines today.
Google could also be assigned partial blame for the sad state of technology magazines. Google makes it so easy to get technical information. I just have to look at my own habits. When I write programs I sit about 5 feet from book cases of relevant technical documentation. Yet, when I'm looking for a function format or SQL script, I first go to Google and pose a query. Most of the time, I not only find what I'm looking for but also can copy and paste a function prototype or SQL script right into my program.
What happened to these magazines is sad, yet they may not be entirely innocent. Editorial integrity is tough to maintain when so many $$ are waved in your face. In 1996, the headlines read Java, Java, Java. Yet, at that time, Perl powered a good 80% of the web sites that did any e-commerce. There was nary a mention of Perl. Whether you adore Perl or think its the worst looking scripting language since APL, the fact that there was nary a mention of this workhorse revealed the heart of the problem. They made the same mistake Gartner made. They spent too much time with the vendors, and too little time with the end users. This sin, coupled with the realization by thousands of corporate customers that their multi-million dollar investments in Siebel, Peoplesoft, and SAP (the very vendors that were trumpeted weekly in the trade press), may not have been worth it, assures the continued demise of these publications. My prescription for these magazines? Make yourself relevant. Do a controversial (negative) review of a major software product with some beef. Get sued. Break the story behind a major corporate technical/financial cover-up. Have courage. Don't be the vendors' little bitch anymore.
Write courageously, or don't write at all. Have an opinion. If you're not allowed to convey your opinion in words then be bright enough to convey it in between the lines.
Email Patrick Lannigan at lannigan at gmail dot com for more information
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