Brad Wardell's views about technology, politics, religion, world affairs, and all sorts of politically incorrect topics.
The sad decline of PC Week and InfoWorld
Published on November 23, 2003 By Draginol In Personal Computing

Did it just happen one day? That the editors of InfoWorld and PC Week (before it became eWeek), got together and decided that instead of having interesting magazines that they would instead focus on covering only the dullest stuff out there? Was it their goal to transform their magazines from thick, content rich material to being largely pamphlets that resemble more of a specialty Miller Freeman type publication that only a tiny select group would find interesting or useful?

Look through the pages of the technology trade magazines these days, if you can remain awake, and you'll find that most of the articles are canned corporate IT "success stories". Or stories that focus exclusively on "The Enterprise" (not the star ship btw). Or maybe, some little missive on Linux servers on the backend.

Let's take a sampling, just for fun, shall we?

From the top stories at Infoworld:

As someone who has been reading InfoWorld for over 10 years my only response to these "headlines" is, in my best Krusty the Clown voice, WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED?

Who comes up with a headline the uses the terms "Content Networks vision"?  Gone is Cringely, or at least in any form we'd recognize him. For awhile they had someone else doing the Cringely article that was incredibly light on meat and very heavy in ham.

Meanwhile, over at "eWeek", the magazine that should just rename itself as "Network security updater", the trade pub has slowly changed from being about things that are informative to a broad audience to something that seems to focus purely on IT Managers.  From there we get:

Remember Spencer F. Katt? Kind of a less interesting version of Cringely? This is what passes for "inside" information now:

http://www.eweek.com/article2/0,4149,1394352,00.asp

Apparently there's nothing interesting happening in technology. At least that's what you would get if these were your two main sources of technology information. And for millions of people, these two trade publications were the primary sources of information for the rest of us nerdlings. Nowadays, we have to rely on web sources like OSNews.com or ExtremeTech. And if you want scoops, you have to turn to websites not run by paid professionals but part-time volunteers who are having a blast beating the so-called pros on a day to day basis like Neowin.net.  How did this happen? It's easy to just blame the web but there has to be more to it.  If I want to hear some good dirt, I have to visit a UK tech magazine (The Register). For crying out loud, both eWeek and Infoworld are based in San Fran. You don't get any closer to the alleged action than that.

Technology used to be fun to read about in these two classic pubs. You could tell that the people working there had fun.  You had Nicholas Petreley at InfoWorld blasting Microsoft about something.  Now he's over at VarLinux giving the Windows world hell.  Even Cringely fled to PBS.  PBS! You know your publication has gone down hill when PBS can take your top writers. I still get both InfoWorld and eWeek. But as I read them, I can't help but feel like most of the articles are written by people who don't seem to be having very much fun. Peter Galli seems to still be having a good time but the rest seem to focus on things that would only be interesting to a 55 year old IT manager who is counting the days until his next vacation.

The sad thing is, there really really are interesting things still going on.  It's the same interesting things that PC Week and InfoWorld used to cover.

 

 

  • Releases of major new commercial software packages.  Now, they might get a little paragraph.  New version of Word Perfect? No version of Corel Draw? Eh. No one cares about that right? People really want to hear more about this $35,000 Enterprise network monitoring application that tests for security holes on an AIX. Oh yea...I'm aroused.
     
  • There are still other operating systems out there other than Windows. No really I'm not kidding. There really are. While OS/2 may be dead (PC Week in particular worked hard to convince the world OS/2 was dead and IMO helped wreck its own future by reporting OS/2's demise decades before it became fact thus ensuring fewer large advertisers), there are still interesting things happening there with eComstation. Interesting things are happening on Linux, especially on the desktop these days. They're getting closer. Not that you'd know that from the typical issue of InfoWorld.
     
  • The columnists at these two magazines used to put out some really interesting things each week. Some of which was, my goodness, focused on what we call "the horizontal market". Dvorak-style columns would spread the word on misdeeds of companies towards their customers. About 10 years ago, Peter Coffee slammed our first business product, "OS/2 Essentials". This week's article (try and guess what it is about, you are probably right): "Comdex Promises Renewed Focus On Enterprise IT" Oh yea baby. Thank goodness that eWeek is covering that barely mentioned topic of Enterprise IT. You can tell by the big size of eWeek these days that focusing half the articles on Corporate IT is a real winner.
     
  • These guys still have clout. Let's hear some real editorializing on the direction of the technology industry as a whole. Software solutions that need to be made. Thoughts on where things are now. Hardware that isn't well known but might be useful. Sneak peeks at things yet to come. They used to do this. I got the low-down on the Pentium from PC Week.  No I go to Tom's Hardware because nowadays, the coverage these two give of these things is extremely superficial. Press releases regurgitated as news.

I am not poking fun at eWeek and InfoWorld because I dislike them. I'm making fun of them because I want them to be what they could be again. These publications don't have to shrug and say "Let the web take over." They don't have to cover everything that a Neowin or Register or OSNews or Toms Hardware would cover. Just cover the key issues but cover them very very well.  These two publications were the ones I would scoop up and take with me on vacation. I'd be up north with a pile of InfoWorlds and PC Weeks catching up on the latest news and being well rounded in my knowledge when I was done.

Today, by contrast, reading InfoWorld and eWeek put me in touch with my inner-55 year old corporate IT manager.  It's a big tech world out there. They need to get back up on the horse and get to it.

 


Comments
on Nov 23, 2003
This is why magazines like Boot exist - or at least, used to exist.

Unfortunately, now Boot has become Maximum PC - and while they still work semi-hard at keeping it fun and interesting, somewhere along the lines they've lost their focus of being oriented towards power users, are are now just a 'trendy' magazine for neophytes and average users - despite what they say. (And yet, I still have my subscription. ^.^)

At one time Wired was a good magazine too (back in the early-mid 90's.. you know, before roughly 80% of its pages became ads,) and I still lament the passing of Mondo 2000...

Man, now I miss the days of going to the book store, and looking with anticipation for one of my favourite magazines to be sitting on the shelf. Oh well, there's still 2600 (another I shamefully admit to reading - and have for /years/.)
on Nov 23, 2003
(I really hate having hitting post too early...)

I think another big factor here is the existance of all of the tech news sites that we read regularly - as well as the sheer amount of new news, and the speed it all occurs now. Compare the turnaround time for a traditional print magazine compared to a website.

An article printed in a traditional print mag was written at /least/ 30 days before the magazine was published, in general. Now, years ago, this didn't make as much of a difference - but think about today. Last month, Maximum PC did an article on the new Athlon64-FX - and the editor even admitted that by the time the magazine hit the newstand the article would be out of date, because they'd already received a test P4EE.

Now compare that to a website? Somebody writes the article on the FX - it gets released a day or two later - in fact, I'd already read -comparisons- between the P4EE and Athlon64 incarnations /way/ before that last Maximum PC (with comment about being out of date,) had hit the printer's office.

Traditional mags simply can't keep up on a 'new' (and thus often, interesting,) level of content any longer. Unfortunately, they really don't seem willing to find any alternatives to this either.
on Nov 23, 2003
I think this is what happens when professionalization sets in. These magazines are no longer aimed at "enthusiasts" as they once were. Probably only 55-year-old IT managers get their tech news exclusively in print form anyway. The rest of us find it online. I used to scour every page of Byte magazine -- now I just use it to scour my bathroom floor.
on Nov 23, 2003
These two newspaper magazines were subscribed by me through work. I used to keep myself pretty up to date and interested with them. Now however the subscription stacks up in the corner unread. Sometimes I feel really guilty and take a handful of them to coffee to highlight the worthwhile articles to read. I get bored just reading the headlines. I am an IT manager but I WOULD like to read about something more than ecenomic bottom lines or costs trends. I love PC's not money.

I am really glad you voiced this concern because I thought maybe I was losing my game... Guess it is not just me. Thanks.
on Nov 23, 2003
I can sum it up in one word. MONEY. The net used to be a cool place to mess around. You could have some fun, and at the tech sites you could learn a little. Now, it's the all mighty dollar. I bought MusicMatch about two years ago, at a store, ver., 6 and upgraded to 7.5. Then they tell me I can't update to 8, which basically all they did was change the skins. So, I'm at Best Buy, and see Ver.8. Buy it. I come home install it, and a few days later I hear they have updated to ver., 8.1, so I hit the update button. No available updates. I send them an email stating the problem, looking for a solution. They tell me, if it is bought at a store, it can't be updated. Think about it. It's like, they come up with a new bumper for you're car, so you have to "upgrade" to get the "latest bumper". It's just "give me you're money". I'm not against making a few dollars, but that is all anyone thinks about any more. Is'nt it getting a little out of hand. Like you say, it's all IT. Make more money. Let's get back to reality. Nice thought. Never happen. Peace. Hippie
on Nov 24, 2003
Both EWeek and Infoworld are free magazines (at least to the "subscribers") that are soley paid for by advertising money. The IT managers have control of the IT budgets to whom most of the products advertised in the magazines are sold to. Years ago when techonology dollars were flowing freely these magazines had tremendous subscriber lists of people who did not spend significant dollars on the products being advertised. The editorial content appealed to the reader base. This was not a good long term strategy for them. When the advertising dollars started shrinking, they had to reevaulate who was reading thier magazines.

They found out that had many subscribers that were not the targets of their advertisers and dropped them. They also looked at their editorial content and found out that it did not appeal to the proper readership. Although we may find it boring and I'm sure many IT managers may find it boring, these magazines help large IT organizations with large IT budget make informed decisions.

The content in these magazines that was interesting to a wider audience was available in PCMagazine, PC World and many other mothly publications, it was just nicer to get it quickly in in a weekly trade publication. That content can now be found on many other web sites and it is not in their best interests or in their long term goals to be in that market because that is not who the advertisers are selling to.

The same arguments can be said of the trade shows. Comdex used to be fun, PCExpo is dead and NetWorld InterOp killed itself by targeting the wrong audience. They need to appeal to the people who control the large budgets, computers stores are the venue for the everyday user. This industry is growing up and the trade publications have to settle in to this market or fade away. I love food, but I don't read the food trade publications because I'm not interested in how to transport food without spoiling it or the best labeling techniques to use to maximize profit on the supermarket shelf.

The best you can do if these magazines don't appeal to you any more, is to wish them luck and find other outlets for your up to date technology news. I don't think that they will be looking into that market.
on Nov 24, 2003
"The same arguments can be said of the trade shows. Comdex used to be fun, PCExpo is dead and NetWorld InterOp killed itself by targeting the wrong audience."

Everybody knows that the only good trade shows left are E3 and the Tokyo Games Show, Larry. ^_~

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