Ziff-Davis: The Legendary Magazine Publisher Publishes Magazines No More

By  |  Wednesday, January 7, 2009 at 12:08 am

Popular AviationThis news has more to do with dead trees than electrons, but I can’t resist: Ziff Davis has announced that it’s selling its 1Up network of gaming sites to Hearst and shutting down Electronic Gaming Monthly magazine. Coming around six weeks after the company discontinued the print version of PC Magazine, the news leaves ZD with no paper-based publications at all.

Which is a big deal, since the 82-year-old publisher had as long, influential, and impressive a history of consumer publishing as any company on the planet. Among its titles over the years, other than EGM and PC Mag: Amazing Stories, Car and Driver, Computer Shopper, Creative Computing, MacUser, MacWeek, PC/Computing, PC Week, Popular Electronics, Popular Photography, Stereo Review, Yahoo Internet Life., and many others I’m not thinking of right now. Nobody published more successful mags read by more enthusiasts with a wider range of passions, or made more money doing so.

Ziff Davis remains in business and will be focusing its attention on the PCMag.com Web site network.  Given the state of print publishing and Ziff’s many years of decline as a print powerhouse, its departure from magazine publishing isn’t surprising–and might even be a good idea. It surely won’t be the last old-school magazine publisher that leaves magazines completely behind. But it’s still hard to get my head around the idea that nobody anywhere will read Ziff Davis magazines anymore.

(Necessary but superfluous disclaimer: I spent 18 years working at IDG, Ziff Davis’s principal rival in tech publishing–which is still successfully publishing magazines around the world.)

 
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8 Comments For This Post

  1. Juha Says:

    I knew it… as a primordial ZDer, it’s sad to see what’s happened, but not unexpected. Thanks, Softbank et al. You did nothing good.

  2. Jose Alvear Says:

    This doesn’t bode well for lots of tech publishers, especially IDG. How can they (and CMP) continue to publish print magazines when everyone else is going online?

    As a side note, I’m a little sad since I used to write articles for Yahoo! Internet Life many, many year ago. Bye bye print!

  3. Lance Jungmeyer Says:

    Enthusiasts go online these days to read blogs, forums, etc. That’s all there is to it.

    Well, and of course the advertising angle.

  4. Jared Newman Says:

    Interesting angle. In the game world we keep hearing about how GamePro and Game Informer are now the only two multi-platform print magazines left. But few must’ve realized that ZD is no longer publishing print mags at all.

    Anyway, yeah, with game journalism tending to be more preview/review oriented, that kind of stuff is more easily gathered online. I’d love to see a print mag that offers the kind of in-depth essays and articles you read in The Escapist, but I’m not sure there’s a market for it.

  5. Ed Oswald Says:

    Ziff Davis has been in trouble for a long time.. news like this isn’t surprising.

  6. Fred Davis Says:

    I was at ZD for 14 years… right up until the time Bill Ziff sold out to Teddy Forstmann (Geo. Bush Sr.’s campaign finance mgr.)… Bill was a genius, and the soul of the company… ZD died the day he sold it.

    When I was a young laddy and first started working at ZD (in my 20′s) I knew that ZD was a patriarchy, and Bill Ziff was big daddy. In those kind of companies, departure of the patriarch usually foretells doom and disaster. I promised myself in those early days (when I was editor of A+ and MacUser) that if Bill went, I would be the next to go.

    So, Teddy Forstmann flipped it to Softbank, who floated a billion-dollar junk bond on ZD. Softbank put that money into Yahoo and E-Trade mostly, and word is they harvested $10 billion from that $1 billion raised from crippling ZD with a billion dollars worth of debt.

    After leaving ZD I helped start CNET, and then pirated a whole crew of the best ZD people over to CNET, thus boosting CNET talent pool, while hurting ZD’s chance to make a rapid transition to online.

    Plus, a company that used to have no debt, lots of cash, and a billionaire running it, was now leaderless and a billion dollars in debt. In order to try and pay down the debt ZD wound up selling ZD Net to CNET for about a half a billion (CNET was awash in riches after a very successful IPO). This completed a the major migration of ZD people to CNET that I had started when CNET was first born.

    By then ZD’s chances of being a serious online player were basically shot. Yeah, they did some cool gaming stuff in print and online, but by then it was already game over. Good old CNET already had them beat with GameSpot.

    Alas poor ZD, I knew them well. May they rest in pieces.

    But my memories of the company will always be the ones of the halcyon days with Bill Ziff at the helm. Thank you Bill, for the best education about media, publishing, and advertising that a young man could ever ask for.

  7. Maddio Says:

    I loved Yahoo Internet Life. I remembered visiting them with my anvils filled with new Sony VAIO PC gear … all under NDA, back in the day.

  8. Harry McCracken Says:

    Thanks for the insider background, Fred (and hello!). It’s fascinating to wonder what would have happened if ZD had never been sold (or hadn’t been sold so many times, or had been sold to better buyers). It might well still be pulling out of print right now. But you gotta think things might have been quite different.

    –Harry

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