Category Archives: Print publishing

Editor Quits, Causes Uproar, Returns: Just Another Day in the Tech Trade Press

Proponents of editorial integrity are claiming victory following the reinstatement of PC World Editor in Chief Harry McCracken, who had resigned two weeks prior in a dispute over a cover story that PC World CEO Colin Crawford apparently ordered McCracken to kill. Um, make that former CEO, as IDG Communications President Bob Carrigan abruptly shuttled Crawford back to the company’s online group after just three months as head of PC World and Macworld, clearing the way for McCracken’s return. [Disclosure: IDG was my employer between 2004-2006.]

As David Churbuck notes, trade publications have always been beaten up over their close associations with advertisers and the perceived impact of those relationships on editorial coverage. Churbuck says he never experienced any such pressure during his days in the newsroom at PC Week, and neither did I. In fact, PC Week’s publishers, particularly the legendary Don Byrnes, went to bat for me more than once against advertisers who were outraged over some perceived slight in our coverage. The pains we took to maintain the church-state division never lessened the hue and cry of the Mac zealots (followed by the Linux zealots) who were certain we were on Microsoft’s payroll.

That was years ago, when publishers still had some leverage and could afford to play tough when vendors threatened to pull their ads. Now, with ad dollars at a premium, it’s particularly satisfying to see the edit guys win one. It’s even more refreshing to see PC World’s bloggers discuss the situation so openly. That’s something that would not have happened five or 10 years ago.  

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Ode to a Trade Pub that Gave Me Many Sleepless Nights

The news that IT trade pub InfoWorld is ending its nearly 30-year-old print publication (while continuing its online and events properties) is not a wet blanket over the entire print publishing world. It’s more of a long-overdue nod to the bloated state of the tech publishing industry. When dozens of IT publications – three within IDG alone targeting senior IT execs – are competing for ad dollars in an industry that has gone through massive vendor consolidation (meaning the ad pie is shrinking), you have a problem even before what’s left of your print revenues start flying over to the Web.

I haven’t read the print version of InfoWorld for years, but I have fond memories of the publication from my days at PC Week – InfoWorld’s bitter rival during the ’80s and ’90s, aka the tech journalism boom times. We competed fiercely for every piece of breaking news. Outside my office in the newsroom of PC Week (now eWeek), we kept a “Scoop Scoreboard” to track our wins vs. the competition. Our receptionist, the legendary Betty Edwards, would call me every Tuesday morning to let me know when the stack of InfoWorlds had arrived, and reporters held their breath as they scanned the front page to see if they’d been scooped (and would soon be answering questions from cranky editors as to why).

Both publications would both send massive news teams to Comdex – I once had an $11,000 bill from the Vegas hotel where we housed our newsroom – and, after we launched our respective Web sites (PC Week’s crude 1994 implementation, built by our lab rats, was one of the first news websites) our goal at PC Week was twofold: to post every bit of breaking news from the show ahead of InfoWorld, and to beat them with exclusives from the event in the following week’s print mag. 

Jim Forbes, a former colleague of mine who worked for both publications, has a great look back at InfoWorld‘s storied run. I will never have as much fun as I did in the PC Week newsroom during the late ’80s and early ’90s. It’s too bad that the leaders of great publications like PC Week and InfoWorld let new competition (CNet), new media (the Web) and a paryalyzing unwillingness to embrace new publishing models pull the rug out from underneath them. The writing was on the wall for print rags like InfoWorld long ago; look for others to follow.