InfoWorld: Life after print

Posted on May 6, 2008 
Filed Under Journalism

(via IHT)

Philip Meyer, in his book The Vanishing Newspaper, predicts that the final copy of the final newspaper will appear on somebody’s doorstep one day in 2043.

For some, it’s come sooner.

Can an 180,000-circulation, weekly magazine go web-only and still survive?

International Data Group, the world’s largest publisher of technology newspapers and magazines, says it can be done.

InfoWorld, its flagship weekly turned web publication, is generating ad revenue of US$1.6 million a month with operating profit margins of 37 percent.

A year earlier, when it had both print and online versions, InfoWorld had operating losses of 3 percent on monthly revenue of US$1.5 million.

“The excellent thing, and good news, for publishers is that there is life after print – in fact, a better life after print,” said Patrick McGovern, the founder and chairman of IDG.


“Advertisers and readers of high-tech publications have moved online more swiftly than other audiences, so IDG may offer a glimpse of the future of publishing. Yet the transition only came after years of investment, upheaval and changes in its practice of journalism.

“The biggest single step and most striking sign of the company’s online shift came a year ago, on April 2, 2007, when the last print edition of InfoWorld appeared and it became a web-only publication.

“There were nervous months after the switch, as the company awaited the reaction from advertisers and readers, but before long InfoWorld’s web audience was growing and its business improved.

“In 2002, 86 percent of the revenue from IDG’s publications, whose titles include Computerworld, InfoWorld, PC World, Macworld and CIO, came from print and 14 percent online.

“These days, 52 percent of the revenue comes from online ads, while 48 percent is from the print side.

“Last year, print and online publications accounted for 70 percent of IDG’s US$3 billion in revenue, with the rest coming from its conference business and technology research firm, IDC.

“The giant technology publisher has not just stabilized its business, McGovern said, but is now growing around 10 percent annually – though a severe recession would surely dim its growth prospects this year.

“Throughout its network of 300 print titles and 450 Web sites in 85 countries, IDG has converted smaller titles to online only, but InfoWorld was the big one. More will come, company executives say, as print titles slip into the red and are left behind.

“But they emphasize that the print versions of some titles, like CIO, a glossy twice-monthly magazine, will likely be around for many years.

“CIO, for chief information officer, distributed free to senior technology managers, is solidly profitable and runs long pieces that detail the use of technology in corporations and government institutions.

“Yet even CIO has adopted what its managers call an “online first” business model. Three years ago, the editorial staff was divided into three people who worked on the website only, and the rest only on print.

“Today, there are no barriers. The total staff size, at 23, is one fewer than in 2005, but now most of them spend 80 percent of their time on the web, while a handful of writers spend 80 percent of their time on the long, centerpiece articles in the print magazine.

“But everyone writes for the web these days. ‘It’s only fair to people for their career development,’ said Michael Friedenberg, the president of CIO. ‘How can you say to anyone, in this environment, that they can only write in print and not online?’

“Yet as a web-only publication, InfoWorld is very different from the bygone print edition. Gone are the long pieces of more than 3,000 words, with anecdotes and narrative, examining how technology had transformed some company or industry. Instead, the key online is packaging information into ‘digestible chunks,’ typically of no more than a page of text or so, sometimes in lists of “10 things to do” to solve some technology problem in companies.

“The web also opens the door to offerings that are impossible in print like short animations that explain complex technologies, and an online petition urging Microsoft to keep selling the aging Windows XP operating system beyond its June cutoff date that has collected 160,000 signatures online.

“Without the physical limits of print, it becomes easier to explore topics more deeply on the Web. InfoWorld presents a stable of bloggers, including 19 freelance writers, who are authorities in niches including data protection, green technology, open-source software and cloud computing.

“Eric Knorr, the current editor in chief, says the goal with reporting and blogging is to create ‘thought leadership and depth’ in several subject areas online.

“Stewart Alsop, a journalist-turned-venture capitalist, was the editor in chief of InfoWorld in the 1990s, when the it was thick with ads and its editorial staff was at its peak. “Technology publishing just happens to be at the point of this whole transformation of media,” Alsop said. ‘What’s happening at IDG is a fairly accurate map for every other publishing organization. Get over it, it’s going to happen.’ “



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