Tech magazines are back; Forrester latest entrant
Yep, there's five of them, and we write about their aspirations in our Mercury News story today, "Tech mags return -- can they survive?" (Or here, if you haven't registered and can't be bothered.) The overriding theme is, you've got to have a "niche," or else. As usual, print constraints meant we couldn't get everything in. Here are some more thoughts:
--Forrester Magazine has the most provocative cover, with a story titled "Is your company evil?" The front cover (see here: Download file) has the Google guys under halos, the back shows them with red horns and tails. The Merc's print edition had some nice shots of the five magazine covers, and graphic summaries of each of the magazine' strategies. Shame the MercuryNews.com link above omits these -- but hey, our Web site has to make money by instead replacing such art by advertising -- a fact of life in the current drive to make the online product more profitable.
--We quoted Steve Cohn, editor in chief of the Media Industry Newsletter, saying there's room for modest magazine plays. But we didn't have space for his marked criticism of Forrester's magazine effort: "Forrester and Jupiter fail any polygraph after their optimistic calls, saying everything was wonderful with the Internet," he said, referring to their wild growth predictions in 2000. "Their credibility went down the tubes." No room for redemption? Hmmm, if you're paying a $30,000 membership for the research, perhaps it wouldn't be easy to forgive, no. Note the irony that Forrester's new magazine is print only.
--Tony Perkins' AlwaysOn is the only magazine truly testing a new model. He's taking the best postings and reader comments from his existing online version, and printing them in a quarterly magazine. He's calling it a "Blogozine." We note that the online postings aren't really blogs. They're really singular column submissions by well-known execs and venture capitalists who aren't otherwise bonafide, pajama-clad bloggers -- something Jeff Nolan pointed out to us recently. But Perkins is up to his usual social networking -- only this time online as well as offline. He's giving readers a package deal, where they can pay $49 to perform online searches in his membership database, searching other subscribers by title or job description and so on. Offline, he's preparing things like a ãvideo blogä of the upcoming World Economic Forum being held in Davos, Switzerland -- where the company also holds an annual party with Accel Partners and Google. Otherwise, he's hoping his high-profile network of contributors will drive readership -- and views the print pub mainly as a support vehicle, boosting the brand of AlwayOn's online activities. By sitting around on coffee tables, etc, it'll grab a kind of mindshare that the online version can't get. Funny that, there's something about the permanence and portability of print that these guys just can't let go of. Forrester's Jimmy Guterman expressed a similar attachment, calling print "reassuring."
--In interviews, we noted some skepticism about the viability of the new Red Herring's weekly publication. Perkins, for one, called it a "pretty flawed strategy" in an era when people pretty much go online for their news. Other, less potentially conflicted people, said similar things: "It surprised me when I heard Red Herring was coming back as a weekly, I really scratched my head,'' Tom Crotty, venture capitalist with Battery Ventures, told us. "I don't see it." Maybe that's why owner Alex Vieux is trying to tie it tightly within his conference empire -- hoping for synergies that a stand-alone couldn't hope to have. Unfortunately, while we've talked with Vieux in the past, we couldn't get him to comment for this story.
--We read the preview edition of Tech Confidential, and found it a tad flat -- though it's premature to judge an effort that begins in earnest in May. And like Forrester Magazine, it's not really designed for general distribution. It'll be distributed bi-monthly only to the corporate executive portion, or about 25,000, of The Deal's existing 43,000 recipients. It's distributed almost entirely free of charge.
--Expect Technology Review to target Silicon Valley readers going forward. TR is trying to enlist local technology companies to advertise (publisher Bruce Journey has been making the rounds in Silicon Valley); if TR succeeds, local companies will probably want TR to increase exposure here. Will be interesting to watch, though some think the tie with MIT might hamper its flexibility.
UPDATES: (1) Full disclosure: We're told by Forrester's Jimmy Guterman that John Paczkowski, who writes Good Morning Silicon Valley for our affiliate, SiliconValley.com, is writing a couple of pieces in Forrester's first issue next month. We've put in a call to Paczkowski, to make sure he's not leaving us. Stay tuned... (2) Typo: In the Mercury News story today, our finger wrongly typed an "x," mispelling what should have been the word "Grok."