As a quick Web search shows, many people have noted that "the enemy of my enemy is my friend." I’ve never been certain of the truth of that statement, but it would appear that the Macintosh community has witnessed an example of it in action.
It’s Merger Time — Two weeks ago, rival publishing empires International Data Group (IDG) and Ziff-Davis announced that they have formed a new company called Mac Publications that will consolidate three major Macintosh print publications, Macworld, MacUser, and MacWEEK. That’s stunning news, since the two organizations are known for hating one another.
Even more astonishing, though, is the news that Macworld and MacUser will merge into a single monthly magazine to be called Macworld. The new Macworld will boast a circulation of 625,000 readers. MacWEEK will remain a weekly news magazine with a circulation of 100,000. The first issue of MacWEEK to be published by the new Mac Publications will appear in September, and the first joint issue of Macworld will be the November issue. That makes the October 1997 issue of MacUser the last one under the MacUser name.
Colin Crawford, president and CEO of Macworld, will head the new company and report to a board of directors comprised equally of representatives from IDG and Ziff. The staff of MacWEEK will reportedly move to Mac Publications more or less intact, whereas the staffs of Macworld and MacUser will either be offered jobs with the new Macworld in roughly equal proportions or offered positions at other IDG and Ziff magazines.
Although it wasn’t stated in any of the information about the merger, I assume (and certainly hope) that subscriptions to MacUser will convert into subscriptions to the new Macworld.
What It All Means — There’s no question that this merger is a result of the beating Apple and the Macintosh market have taken of late. All three magazines have had trouble maintaining advertising pages in the last few years, although, according to Adscope, MacUser’s ad pages rose roughly 24 percent in 1996 and MacWEEK’s rose 4 percent, while Macworld’s fell 11 percent. In addition, subscriber growth rates have been low. When you combine those facts with the fierce competition between Macworld and MacUser, you come up with an untenable business situation. So IDG and Ziff managed to put aside their differences long enough to pull their Mac publications out of what could have turned into a death spiral.
I wonder if some of the woes experienced by Macworld and MacUser weren’t related to the Internet. Although it’s unlikely that Internet publications like TidBITS (which is nothing new, having been around since 1990) have lured many readers away from Macworld and MacUser, comments from international readers indicate that U.S. paper publications were too slow and expensive when the Internet could provide similar information. Overseas subscribers probably don’t comprise a major part of the magazines’ circulation, but there’s no question that the Internet provides a Macintosh news and information fix that a few years ago could only be satisfied by Macworld or MacUser.
The merger will be seen as bad news for Apple, but that’s nothing new, given the standard reporting of the slavering mass media. "In continued bad news for troubled computer maker Apple Computer, early morning showers in Cupertino are expected to turn to rain by afternoon." I don’t see the merger as a good thing for the Macintosh, but it’s better than one or more of the Mac magazines simply closing its doors.
One concern is the effect on freelance Macintosh writers. Without the editorial pages of MacUser, there are fewer spots for free-lancers to be published (we’re always happy to consider submissions to TidBITS, but we can pay only in international fame). Those people who write about the Macintosh professionally are often the most knowledgeable, ardent, and persuasive Macintosh supporters; eliminating a major Mac publication forces these people to look for work elsewhere. Luckily, MacAddict, MacTech (whose circulation has been expanding of late), and NeTProfessional are still around, but they probably can’t publish the pages that will disappear with the loss of MacUser, and they can’t pay as well as a volume trade magazine.
It will be interesting to see how Macworld and MacUser meld in that first November issue and those that follow. The magazines were similar in many ways, and the decisions of which columns to keep and which to discard in creating a new magazine will prove difficult. We can only hope the merged magazine will be healthier and more useful than two magazines it supplants.