A friend of ours, Doug Henschen, showed up in my inbox last week in a new guise. Doug for years edited the TechWeb (and before that CMP) publication Intelligent Enterprise, and in my opinion did a great job of distilling all that was important in BI and the enterprise use of information for competitive advantage.
But he isn’t editing IE anymore. Now he’s producing the InformationWeek Enterprise Software Newsletter, which means that the world of business technology publishing has experienced yet another contraction.
Now, it may be my bias showing; we here think that companies faced with the challenge of improving their competitiveness and performance really ought to check in with us. But I understand the value of having access to information about and opinions on business technology easily and at no cost – I should, having been a business and technology magazine editor for years myself.
But the business model for business magazine publishing, like the business model for “publications” in general (the quote marks are because the act of publishing has evolved to have a new meaning when the medium is HTML-based), is broken. There always was a disjunction between the editorial side of the house with its principled approach and the sales-oriented business side that earned the money to pay the bills and reward the owners. Journalism is expensive, and advertising dollars have fled elsewhere. So newspapers are dying, or consolidating, or leaving newsprint behind. And companies seeking to reach the eyeballs of potential customers are hunting about wildly, much as Tom Kuhn said would occur when a crisis undercut the conceptual framework of a paradigm.
And so technology publishing is contracting. Or fragmenting. Delivering news no longer works as a mission, so the weeklies are, as actual weeklies, gone. The technology publishing powerhouses – Ziff-Davis, IDG, CMP – are no more. What remain are niche “titles” – function-focused, vertically focused, mission-defined.
As a result, the burden is being shifted to the reader. And this makes it relevant to repeat a caution being heard often these days: Do not be content to read just material that reinforces what you already know. Seek out a breadth of information and a diversity of opinions, and always ask for the evidence, the data that supports assertions.
Put slightly differently, my recommendation is that you choose information channels shaped – edited, I once would have said, but packaged is today the more accurate term – by journalists, by professionals who understand how to pursue, assemble and vet information. Which is to say, seek out folks like Doug Henschen.
Alan Kay – VP Research Management