Is The Web Killing The Computer Magazine?

by Chris Howard Nov 02, 2005

When was the last time you read a computer magazine? Did you get the feeling of deja vu? I’ve stopped buying computer magazines. They’re out of date before the journalist’s fingers hit the keyboard.

Even a newspaper can suffer. I read the weekly MacMan column (no relation to the widget game of the same name) in The Age newspaper (usually the online version) by Garry Barker which comes out on a Thursday in Australia which is Wednesday US time. Because of deadlines, he always misses the Tuesday announcements that Apple are so fond of, so consequently, his columns from my perspective are a week behind. Sure it’s not so important for the casual reader - and that’s who Garry’s column is aimed at - but for those of us who get our news from the Internet - and especially via RSS feed aggregators - it’s old news.

A computer magazine is positively ancient news.

The Apple mags must have hated Steve in October as by the time their magazine hit the streets with reviews and tutorials on iTunes 5, iTunes 6 was out. And the nano had a brief flash of about 4 weeks before its media spotlight was usurped by the video enabled iPod. Remember when there was years between processor upgrades? There were three year gaps from the 286 to the 286 and then to the 486.

The poor old magazine editors must be pulling their hair out and long for days of yore, when it took six months for a software update to get from USA to Australia. (Sony must miss those days too, given their efforts to put the Australian iTMS so far behind the US one.)

I just read (online of course) at MediaPostthat this was the worst year for newspapers: terms of advertising and they say last week, Rishad Tobaccowala, chief innovation officer for Publicis Groupe, told a newspaper—the Chicago Tribune—”newspapers are at a tipping point,” in which online media will start to take more readership and more ad dollars. He added that newspapers are in the worst situation of all news media for growth as “the least visually engaging and least youth oriented” medium.

Computer magazines must be right up there with them at that tipping point.

I sometimes buy gardening magazines, Earth Garden being a favorite (yeah click on the link, it will confuse the heck out of them when they check their stats! wink ). I used to buy it regularly in the 90’s before my kids wanted to be fed. And yet I still refer to those old issues and they’re still relevant. Maybe an extreme example, but areas unaffected by fashions, trends and technology are better equipped to survive the magazine bust. On the other hand, I used to piff my computer magazines quite regularly and now I don’t have any.

Can computer magazines reinvent themselves? Or have sites like Apple Matters started positioning the lid on their coffin, with hammer and nails at hand? Probably the magazines will become more dependent on tutorials and comparisons, and less on news and reviews, which I’ve noticed a lot of in the PC magazines in the last 12 to 18 months. It’s time for the Apple mag I used to read to catch up.

How long have computer magazines got left? If you’re reading this site, chances are you don’t rely on computer magazines to keep you informed. Do you still read Macworld, Macaddict, etc?


  • Even comparisons in magazines will be of less value, since they will be comparing old programs. And tutorials will be useful, but since I can find a tutorial more quickly with a web search engine, magazines will be shorted again. The Zinio version of MacWorld I thought would be very useful, but when I need to find something in a past issue, I use (search engine of choice here) to find the article on the MacWorld web site. A straight PDF of Macworld would be nice, instead of the DRM version that Zinio provides.

    planetmike had this to say on Nov 02, 2005 Posts: 23
  • Agreed. Magazine freaks have become web freaks. I take the RSS feeds from MacWorld and a few others, but it’s been years since I subscribed to a computer mag.

    But, man, I really miss Byte. In its prime—400-page editions and all—it was essential reading. No single publication, paper or web, comes close.

    I’m much more interested in the quality of the content, not how the content is delivered.  I can live without speedy delivery of bilge.

    bill_g had this to say on Nov 02, 2005 Posts: 3
  • The computer magazines have gotten too expensive. They expect you to pay close to $10 for the mag just because they bundled a cd full of stuff that can be downloaded from the web. They may longer do the cd bundling, I wouldn’t know, I no longer buy magazines.

    cloudwall had this to say on Nov 02, 2005 Posts: 21
  • It’s funny, Chris, the gist of this article crossed my mind a couple of weeks ago when my “lastest” Macworld magazine featured the Nano, a couple of days after the iPod video came out.

    Classifieds will probably be completely gone soon.  I use craigslist and ebay, and so does almost everyone I know.  My dad bought two cars off of ebay, and this is a guy who used to SUBSCRIBE to Autotrader.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Nov 02, 2005 Posts: 2220
  • I still buy MacWorld and MacAddict just because sometimes I want a real magazine to hold and read. I like reading in the tub, but I guess after reading this article, perhaps I should begin buying something different—something not as time sensitive, but still good enough for bath time!
    /Yes, the mags are far too expensive.

    Carl had this to say on Nov 02, 2005 Posts: 1
  • I look forward for mail delivery every month to my subscriptions to Macworld, MacAddict and Machome magazines. One new idea a month is worth subscribing. As previously stated by others, much of the information may be on the net, but where do you look and how do you know what to query. Magazine editors are invalueable for bringing to our attention information we may otherwise never now about. We should support mac magazines and their advertisers. Annual subscription rates are very modest compared to retail rates.
    MacAddict today, Macworld tomorrow amd Machome forever!

    Benton had this to say on Nov 02, 2005 Posts: 1
  • >>...editors are invalueable…

    As an editor in a different lifetime, I’ll enthusiastically second that.

    We’re inclined to make comparisons of a single print publication with the entire web. E.g., why buy Macworld when you’ve already got the web?

    Well, the web is a mess and no one is editing it. That’s why Google is a $100 billion corporation.  Just about everything might be on the web, but, at any given time, “everything” just gets in our way. Google, et al, allow us to create ad hoc filters to weed out garbage and deliver content we might want to read.

    At its most basic, that’s editing: act as a filter for your readers and, with a bit of luck, deliver content they want. If enough readers are willing to pay for it, you might manage to sell enough advertising to stay afloat.

    Frankly, I doubt that content that is not financially viable in magazine format can be financially viable on the web. Products costs are production costs.

    bill_g had this to say on Nov 02, 2005 Posts: 3
  • The Japanese Mac mags leave the US mags for dead. If the US mags emulated what they offer, I would buy them. Nothing beats the enjoyment of flicking through an interesting mag - the web doesn’t match it - but the content have to be satisfying and plentiful. The US mags do not measure up.

    betty had this to say on Nov 02, 2005 Posts: 1
  • I agree on the general quality of US magazines not being compelling enough. I used to read MacAddict when it was ‘raw and fresh’. I don’t like zinio or pdf because I feel like looking at a second class version of a print mag, which is basically what it is. I’d rather use the web for tech content, but love National Geographic for it’s beautifully reproduced photography. I also like art and design mags in print.

    eyehop had this to say on Nov 03, 2005 Posts: 19
  • Re: classifieds—let’s not forget that Craigslist, etc., have an edge over newspaper classifieds primarily because they’re free. If they lose the financial ability to support free ads, or just decide to start charging, they’ll lose that advantage.  Similarly, if newspapers decide to stop charging for some of their classifieds, they’ll gain an advantage. (One thing that would hit newspapers hard would be to lose real estate advertising.  Typically, those ads contribute a nice weekly shot in the arm.)

    I still maintain that it comes down to content. If there’s something I want that is only available in a magazine, then I’ll buy it. It it is on the web, I’ll get it there. However, my own preference regarding reading anything more than a few paragraphs in length is to read it in hardcopy. Reading at length on a monitor is much less pleasurable than the alternative.

    bill_g had this to say on Nov 03, 2005 Posts: 3
  • Oddly, just like Beeblebrox I was too wondering this recently. I get all my news from online now. I also have literally hundreds of archived issues of various magazines which I’ve stopped buying.
    However, also like Carl, I too need something to read on the toil-... tub. In the tub. So I still buy Wired magazine. Now I have to pay $17 per issue because I live in the UK. I’ve tried reading issues online, but it just feels so empty that way.

    So why do I still buy it? Wired magazine is different in that it doesn’t have news. All the news is on the website, and the magazine is left purely to articles. I believe this is where it succeeds with my custom.

    Of course, a magazine about Mac/Apple has a much more limited range of article possibilities than Wired has. In the past they’ve been a mix of news, reviews and articles. So I think magazines need to reinvent themselves with content of more substance (many already are.)

    The best example I can have of this is an issue of Edge magazine (video gaming.) I never, ever thought I’d buy a magazine about PS3, Xbox 360 and Revolution. But I did. There’s no way they could offer any ‘new’ news on these consoles that I don’t already know. Or even new images. But the headlining article read, “The next-gen consoles and what they mean for our future.” - now THAT is interesting! It’s difficult to find a quality source for that kind of thing on the internet. On the internet it’s either just plain, straight-up news, or some guy who could be a complete dumbass giving his fact-less opinions.

    So I think there will remain a space for magazines as quality sources for certain articles, so long as they come up with exciting ways to draw customers and edit it together in a quality package (no DVD please)

    Luke Mildenhall-Ward had this to say on Nov 04, 2005 Posts: 299
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