By Harry McCracken | Friday, February 27, 2009 at 10:08 am
At its peak, Computer Shopper may have consumed more wood pulp each month than any other magazine of any sort, ever: It consistently ran over 1,000 pages oversized a month in the early 1990s. (I remember in part because I worked for a not-very-successful magazine that had been formed to take Shopper on head-to-head.)
The onetime behemoth will never kill another innocent tree again: SX2 Media Labs, its publisher, is discontinuing print publication to go online-only after the April issue, reports PaidContent.org. The news comes a few months after Ziff Davis folded the print version of PC Magazine, once Computer Shopper’s even more profitable stablemate. (Shopper was a Ziff publication during the fat years, though it began as an independent operation and was also owned by Cnet for a spell until SX2 bought it in 2005.)
Also recently defunct, at least as a standalone publication: the extremely venerable programming journal Dr. Dobb’s, which I remember reading in the late 1970s.
Shopper’s paper-based demise really leaves the U.S. with only one general-interest computer magazine, and it’s my old employer, IDG’s PC World. Other than PCW, anything that’s left focuses on a niche, such Maximum PC (hardware enthusiasts), 2600 (hackers), and the self-explanatory Laptop and Macworld. Oh, and I see that Smart Computing is still with us.
There are also a few non-newsstand publications aimed at IT types, such as Computerworld, eWeek (formerly PC Week), and Information Week; none of them are mass-circulation, PC-centric magazines. And a (very few) viable gaming-related magazines.
The bottom line is that nearly notable U.S. computer magazine that ever was is no more: A+, Access, Amazing Computing, AmigaWorld, Ahoy, Analog, Antic, Atari Explorer, Boot (which morphed into Maximum PC), Byte, CD-ROM Today, Computer Artist, Computer Buying World, Creative Computing, Compute, Computer’s Gazette, Computer Currents, Computer Life, Computer Shopper, Computer User (still around online), Corporate Computing, Commodore, Desktop Computing, Desktop Video World, DOS World (yes, there was one!), Family Computing, Home Office Computing, Home PC, Hot CoCo, I*Way, InCider, Interface Age, Kilobaud, 80 Micro, 80-US, Handheld Computing, Info, InfoWorld (still online), Jr., Internet World, Lotus, Mac Home Journal, MacAddict (relaunched as the still-extant MacLife), MacUser, MacWeek, Maximize, Maximum Linux, MicroTimes, MIPS (later Personal Workstation), Mobile Computing, Multimedia World (originally MPC World), The Net, NetGuide, NewMedia, NeXTWorld, On, On Computing, OS/2 Professional, PC/Computing, PC Jr., PC Laptop, PC Magazine (still online), PC Resource, PC Sources, PC Tech Journal, Pen Computing, Personal Computing, Personal Publishing, Pico, Popular Computing (which was the successor to OnComputing, if I recall correctly), Portable Computing, Publish, Recreational Computing, ROM, Run, Softside, Softalk, Softalk PC, Start, SunWorld, Sync (two unrelated magazines, both unsuccessful), Time Digital (On’s earlier incarnation), The Web, Windows (originally OS/2, then Windows and OS/2), Windows Sources, and Yahoo Internet Life.
[UPDATE: I’m updating the above list with magazines my Twitter friends are pinging me about–they’re scaring me by remembering mags I forgot.]
That’s more than eighty dead computer magazines (thanks to Scot Finnie for remembering a few that I forgot about). I read most of the above, had friends at many, competed with several, and wrote for a few. And yes, I know that I forgot to mention some of your favorites. (I’m not even attempting to cover “new economy” ones.)
The reasons for the fall of the computer magazine are so obvious they’re barely worth mentioning: The rise of the Internet left the world with more useful information about computers and related topics than ever, but it’s all online and almost none of it costs a nickel.
(Okay, there are some non-obvious reasons, too: Microsoft’s monopolistic dominance in so many software categories left fewer companies to buy ads, as did the endless parade of corporate mergers over the years. And even if the Internet had never been existed, the magazine business is awfully tough.)
Will computer magazines ever go away, period? Yes, someday, although everything I know about the state of PC World tells me that it can continue on for years in print form doing good stuff and making a profit if it so chooses. And there’s still a market for very specialized tech magazines. But even now, I believe that the relatively large computer-magazine sections at Borders and Barnes & Noble are dominated by magazines from the UK, where print isn’t (yet) quite as dead as it is here.
I love doing tech journalism for the Web, and probably read far more about tech each month than I ever did; it’s by far the best time ever to be interested in personal technology. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t be nostalgic for the days when I haunted the newsstand in search of the latest issue of Creative Computing. Or even, in an odd way, nostalgic for the angst I felt when mammoth issues of Computer Shopper plopped on my desk at work each month, back when I was part of a publication that was failing to compete with it…