Wired Fraying and Shorting Out

May 19, 2009

Making money with electronic information is tough. Making money writing about the wired world is also difficult. Joel Johnson’s interesting “Welcome, Wired. We Call This Land Internet” here provided me with a useful anecdote for an upcoming talk I will be giving at an NFAIS conference at the end of June 2009. Mr. Johnson informed me that Wired Magazine may be killed off. No surprise. The magazine business was challenging when readers did not worry about dead trees and the chemicals in ink, distribution costs, and the millions of direct mail solicitations required to build a subscription list. In May 2009, the magazine business is different from those salad days between the late 17th century and 2008. Mr. Johnson wrote:

Wired is great print, but if the magazine can’t make money and is shuttered, taking the website down with it, I’m going to be livid. Not that making money online is easy—it’s not, especially without sacrificing your ethics and your voice—but if any mainstream outlet should be able to make the transition, it should be Wired. I fear that may be impossible, not just for Wired but for all these old brands, because they can’t accept that the work at which they have excelled for years will be just as important when it’s online—and online only.

I bought two magazines at the airport news kiosk this morning. The total price was about $14. I paid for them, but I was the only person in the shop in Washington Reagan Airport buying magazines. With buyers like me in short supply and advertisers trying to figure out how to maximize their ad dollars, Wired is not the only traditional publication to face a problematic future.

I also thought about the Wired wizards who described the brave new digital world. It is one thing to write about electronic information. It is quite another to make money from a print publication that contains information about online. I don’t think the Wired Web site can survive in its present form, regardless of the fate of the print publication.

Again. That pesky writing and doing problem.

Stephen Arnold, May 19, 2009


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