Late last week, Mac Publishing, the parent company of Macworld, MacWEEK.com, and eMediaweekly, announced that it has ceased publication of eMediaweekly. It wasn't around for long: Mac Publishing first announced that it would be transmogrifying MacWEEK into the cross-platform eMediaweekly back in May of 1998, near the end of the recent Apple death spiral.
Market Timing -- In retrospect, eMediaweekly's timing was unfortunate. The plans to move from MacWEEK to a less Macintosh-specific publication had been in the works long before the May announcement, and although Steve Jobs had preemptively unveiled the iMac less than two weeks before, no one could have predicted that Apple would reverse its ailing fortunes so quickly. By the time eMediaweekly's first issue appeared at the end of August, the iMac had shipped to great fanfare and impressive sales figures, and the Macintosh industry was on the way back up. What started as a seemingly clever way to ease out of the failing Macintosh market suddenly looked like a soldier surrendering just as the tide of battle changed.
It's easy to think that the MacWEEK folks weren't being loyal to the Macintosh cause. But as I've tried to say in the past, there's a big difference between the individuals who make up a company and the company as an entity. I know that many of the people on the MacWEEK staff, though as shaken as the rest of us by Apple's problems, still believed in the Macintosh. On a business level, though, Mac Publishing simply couldn't afford to lose money on MacWEEK for long. The move to eMediaweekly was a business decision, and though it looked bad for Apple to have MacWEEK go away, replacing it with eMediaweekly was a softer blow. Ironically, even if Mac Publishing had doggedly continued publishing MacWEEK at a loss, it's entirely possible that the magazine would still have had to cease publication. Having that happen now would have been far more damaging to Apple than the loss of eMediaweekly.
Who Was Reading? eMediaweekly targeted digital media professionals using the Mac, Windows, and Unix, a somewhat vague audience consisting mainly of previous MacWEEK readers. Although eMediaweekly sported a circulation of 85,000 and obviously met the needs of some people (judging from testimonials in the magazine), our informal surveys found readers somewhat confused about the focus and generally uninterested in the Windows and Unix content. Granted, we're deep in the Macintosh industry, but so were many of eMediaweekly's readers who may have found the content less compelling than when the masthead read MacWEEK.
Show Me the Money -- Although the magazine's content was cross-platform, eMediaweekly's advertising-based revenue stream was not. I recently spent a few minutes counting the advertisements in eMediaweekly's 11-Jan-99 issue. I created three categories: Macintosh-specific, platform-independent, and Windows-specific (I would have included Unix ads, but there weren't any.)
There were no ads aimed purely at Windows users, which implied eMediaweekly hadn't managed to attract advertising dollars from the Windows industry. For a controlled circulation magazine aimed at a cross-platform audience, that failure alone may have proved fatal.
Using a loose interpretation of what was a platform-independent ad (printers, memory, data recovery services, etc.), I counted 12 Macintosh ads and 27 platform-independent ads. With a tighter interpretation of "platform-independent" based on the wording and focus of the ad, I counted 23 Macintosh ads and only 16 truly platform-independent ads. Although I haven't gone back to an old issue of MacWEEK, I'd be willing to bet that ratio didn't change much from MacWEEK to eMediaweekly.
The Online Upshot -- The question that remains is what will happen to MacWEEK.com, the heavily trafficked online arm of MacWEEK that survived the print publication's transition to eMediaweekly. Over the last few months, MacWEEK.com has relied less on content from eMediaweekly, and has started to create partnerships with other sources of Macintosh content, TidBITS included.
MacWEEK.com has eked out profits online, which (as we know from long experience with TidBITS) isn't easy and can be done only with a small dedicated staff, tight control of costs, and a focused online approach. It's possible that the elimination of the unprofitable eMediaweekly will free up additional staff or operating capital for MacWEEK.com, although it's equally possible that Mac Publishing will decide to concentrate solely on its main publication, Macworld.
Bon Voyage -- In the end, the people who lose the most are our friends and colleagues at eMediaweekly, many of whom were laid off. With a limited number of journalism jobs in the Macintosh industry, many will have to search further afield. When MacUser and Macworld merged, we were impressed at the jobs many of those writers and editors managed to find, and we wish the eMediaweekly staff the best of luck as well.