Good Night, Sweet Print

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After Hours Reality Check Magazine A Season in Methven Our Host Send Me Mail

Home Articles STARK REALITIES About This Site My PGP Public Key

After Hours Reality Check Magazine A Season in Methven Our Host Send Me Mail

Home Articles STARK REALITIES About This Site My PGP Public Key

The long, slow, agonizing demise of Boardwatch Magazine has now officially entered its final stage.

Last week Julie Wheeler, Senior Editor and confidante of the magazine's regular contributors, called to tell me that Boardwatch is firing all of its columnists -- except John Dvorak, that is. The severed heads include my own.

What frosts me about the decision is not that it occurred -- it has been all too painfully evident to me that the Penton suits have since they bought the thing from the Machiavellian Alan Meckler been busily and industriously destroying it, determinedly ripping off its wings and legs, all the while protesting that they would never dream of harming the golden goose that Jack Rickard created. No, what chaps my hide is that they will not give me the opportunity to say farewell to the audience for which I have written for the past four-and-a-half years -- a veritable geological epoch in Internet time.

Compared to that studied slight, the fact that, had Julie Wheeler not insisted on calling each columnist personally -- again, excepting only John Dvorak -- the news of our dismissal would have been delivered via a mass email from Todd Erickson, the magazine's Managing Editor, is an insult barely worth mention.

And Todd is not even the one who fired us. That decision rests squarely with Michael Rand "Randy" Goldner, the same courageous individual who censored my February, 2001 column because it was critical of the Boardwatch Web site's design.

The ostensible reason for this mass firing and reinvention of a magazine for which I truly enjoyed writing is cost containment -- this despite the fact that the Penton suits have just hired a new Editorial Director at a suitably inflated salary. This new content czar will be commuting from Southern California to Golden, Colorado one week per month. His lodging and transportation will, of course, be paid for with the money that Penton will save by firing the lot of us.

Thus, the new regime will commence with the ukase that, saving only one feature article per month, all Boardwatch content will henceforth be authored strictly by its editorial staff -- none of whom has any meaningful, practical experience with the technologies about which they will be writing or the policies they'll be analyzing. And none of whom actually "gets" the geek culture behind those technologies and the policies derived therefrom.

You may recall that my habit has been to spend my January column making predictions about the coming year. Since that column will not appear in the January, 2002 Boardwatch's pages, it seems only fitting that I make its most important prognostication in this, my valedictory:

Boardwatch will not survive 2002. In fact, I greatly doubt that it will still exist come July. It is now targeted at entirely the wrong market -- those with purchase authority in the Fortune howevermany -- at a time when all of its peers have months ago recognized that market as fully saturated and retargeted their own subscriber base at the still-underserved SMB (Small and Medium Business) market, instead. It's a print publication in an age where dead trees are finally enjoying their revenge on the children of Gutenberg. Its budget is now just a quarter of what it was at the start of 2001 -- and a whopping chunk of that will go to pay the expenses of an Editorial Director who will have only the existing, badly-overworked staff to oversee. It has NO ONE remaining on its staff who has any breadth of vision, depth of insight or naked, unashamed love of the culture and technology of the Internet.

And Randy Goldner has just gutted the golden goose. It only remains for it to bleed out entirely and the death-watch will end as all death-watches do.

As single-mindedly as Penton has worked to alienate the magazine's loyal subscribers, there will be precious few left to mourn its passing. I will be among them only because, in its time, Boardwatch was a great rag and a thing of real beauty -- and it saddens me to see it killed by the foolishness of petty and short-sighted men.

And so for me this is good night, sweet print. Alas -- I loved you, not wisely, but too well..

(Copyright© 2001 by Thom Stark--all rights reserved)