The Best of Frenemies

A dozen legendary tech relationships that are...well, complicated.

By  |  Thursday, December 11, 2008 at 4:01 am

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9. IDG and Ziff-Davis

macworldmacuserFrenemies since: 1982, when IDG thought it had sealed a deal to buy PC Magazine but discovered that Ziff-Davis had snapped it up. PC World was immediately founded by most of the original staff of PC Magazine, who had walked off the job when they discovered the magazine had been sold to Ziff-Davis without their knowledge.

Acts of friendship: The Ziff-IDG combat extended to the Mac front when IDG founded Macworld in 1984 and Ziff-Davis acquired a magazine startup called MacUser in 1985. But in 1997, when it was an entirely rational assumption to believe that Apple was on its deathbed, the two companies formed a joint venture called Mac Publishing which published a Macworld which represented a merger of the old Macworld and the old MacUser. The surprising partnership lasted until 2001, when IDG bought back Ziff’s share. (It continues to publish Macworld and eventually relaunched MacUser as a blog.)

Acts of enmity: Lengthy and complicated legal wrangling resulting from the origins of PC Mag and PC World; intense rivalry on multiple fronts of technology publishing that went on for decades and spanned multiple countries, including PC World vs. PC Magazine, Macworld vs. MacUser, InfoWorld vs. eWeek, GamePro vs. multiple Ziff gaming titles, and more.

Current state of the frenemyship: and certainly remain competitive. But Ziff has closed or sold off most of its publications that went head-to-head with IDG properties. And as with technology publishers, both IDG and Ziff”s biggest challenges stem from basic changes in the business model behind media companies, not from traditional sparring partners. I’d say that the end of PC Magazine’s magazine version last month brought a symbolic end to the two companies’ long arch-rivalry.

(Superfluous disclaimer: I used to work at PC World and spent almost all of the time from 1991 until earlier this year as an IDG employee. Macworld first issue from Low End Mac; Macuser first issue from Mac Mothership.)

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