This morning it was announced that the print edition of PC Magazine will end with the January 2009 issue. Former Editor-in-Chief Michael Miller blogged about this on PCMag.com.
Memories, memories. I started at PC Magazine very shortly after Michael Miller became Editor-in-Chief in 1991. In fact, my first interview was with the previous Editor-in-Chief, Bill Machrone.
I confess to mixed feelings about the end of the print edition.
For many years I loved working at PC Magazine, and I worked hard. Putting together the Utilities column every two weeks was an escalating challenge over the ten years I was editor. The utilities got increasingly complex as more and more functionality was added to the operating system.
But then PC Magazine fell on hard financial times and there was wave after wave of layoffs. Eventually the ax came around to me. I’d been working as a full-time freelancer under a handshake agreement (yes, I’m naive) with then-editor Joel Dreyfuss, who had since left the magazine. The bean counters who’d taken management control were legally able to lay me off without severance pay, and they did – quite abruptly. That was how it ended for me after 12 years of 70-hour work weeks, producing what for a long time was the most popular column in the magazine.
So while I’m mostly over my anger (it’s been a while now since I left), I admit to a little bit of schadenfreude. Did the print magazine fail due to mismanagement after Michael Miller left, or is print just on the way out, or both? Hard to say.
In any case, I am sad that my relationship with PC Magazine ended on a sour note because I spent so many happy years there. The good old days in the 1990s were a great ride. I’ll try to focus on that.
3 thoughts on “Good-bye PC Magazine (Print Edition)”
When the Ziff family sold PC Magazine (and the rest of the Ziff publications, shows, etc), its fate was set. The new owners took on too much debt. They quickly sold it to people who took on even more debt. If you looked at the numbers, there was no way it could dig its way out of its debt hole–and then the dot-com bubble burst. I think it’s amazing they were able to continue as long as they did. The bean counter did a good job of keeping PC Magazine in print any way they could. But time ran out.
In today’s economy, running a magazine is difficult (ask the man who owns one, like me). With advertising down 30% or more, marginal publications will be disappearing very quickly. A couple weeks ago Mary Englebreit’s Home Companion ceased publication. More are likely to follow.
At least the current Ziff organization is keeping PC alive online. The readers of other publications are not so lucky. I started with PC Magazine with Volume One in 1981, so I understand your feelings of loss. As with you, I mourn the loss but I, too, remember many years of great fun (and a great education in technology and publishing).
When I first started at PC Magazine, Bill Ziff was still there. I met him at the Christmas party my first year – very exciting for me. Bill Ziff was a special guy. He had a “do what you love and the money will follow” philosophy that worked.
It’s true that the print environment today is dreadful and bad financial decisions were made (the debt burden), but bad editorial decisions were made in later days as well. The magazine reached a point where it couldn’t figure out who/what it was anymore, or who it was talking to. The bean counters started throwing out the baby with the bath water to save money, and that was truly the kiss of death. It’s hard enough for any magazine to survive in this environment. But when excellence goes, everything goes.
I don’t think there’s any doubt that the quality of the magazine today is not what it was in its heyday. To some extent this is due to financial constraints, but not entirely. In earlier times, excellence was the Prime Directive. When the bean counters took over, that started to change.
I just read Lance’s post about this. The magazine will exist in magazine format, but will only be produced digitally. This is what subscribers will now get (through email, I guess):