Blame in a changing world

I owe much of the foundation of my computer knowledge to PC Magazine. When I realized I was interested in computers, I started to purchase the magazine. I had a few friends who were very knowledgeable, but I could hardly treat them like my personal consultants. What I did is read the magazine from cover to cover. Even articles that weren’t of great interest to me. Even articles that I really didn’t understand. Even the ads.

I quickly became familiar with the terminology and slowly started to draw links between terms and concepts. Eventually, I really understood what I was reading and things got a lot easier.

The time frame I’m discussing here was the mid-1980s. A friend of mine had a kick-ass IBM-PC with a CGA graphics card that could display four (four!) colours at the same time, from a palette of sixteen. As I started to pore over the magazine, they increased their output to two issues a month. Each issue was already over a centimetre thick and the field was on fire. There was too much information to fit in a monthly magazine of that size.

Given my memories of its heyday, imagine my surprise to read that the magazine is going to end its print publication in favour of its online presence! I know that many people are cutting back on their intake of printed publications, but I didn’t think it was this extreme. The New York Times article says, “More than 80 percent of the profit and about 70 percent of the revenue come from the digital business, … and all of the writers and editors have been counted as part of the digital budget for two years.”

Granted the typical PC Magazine reader is probably at the forefront of the print-to-online exodus, but I still am surprised. There’s a big change happening and publishers had better take action if they want to survive.

Coincidentally, the other day Craige noted on Facebook that she has many magazines around that she hasn’t yet read. I replied that when I bought magazines, I had the same problem. I’ve pretty much stopped buying magazines entirely because they’re just too expensive for what you get.

Someone else replied, saying, “Craige, I’ve decided to blame this friend of yours for the widespread unemployment in my industry.”

Imagine.

I spend my money the way I choose. If you offer me a product at a price that gives me good value, I’ll buy it. If I can get the same elsewhere for less, I’ll generally do so. If this earns me blame, then so be it. From my point of view, the blame lies with those magazine publishers who haven’t kept up as the world changes around them. I can imagine the buggy whip manufacturers laid much of the same blame when the automobile started to become popular.

Regardless of which blame is correct, publishers need to decide if they want to survive. Once they decide that they do, blame becomes meaningless. On the other hand, if they’re sure everyone else it to blame, they can take comfort in this belief as they close their businesses for good.

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