Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Computer Weekly closes and a personal memory

So if i wrote a piece every time a former giant B2B print title closes - this would be a weekly update, but i can't let this one pass without mention. I started my career on its arch rival Computing magazine (and eventually became publisher). Both titles ran 100+pages of job ads every week - ratecard £10K a page - Yield about £5K. Lovely money!!

But please allow me a little personal reminiscence as the memories flood back.

The most important meeting of my career thus far was when i was publisher of Computing and was with European MD of VNU its owner - i had to present a 5 year plan (5 years!!!! who does that anymore) for the title. And had prepared 56 slide(56 slides, i know...) masterpiece full of research, plans, spin offs. Unfortunately Slide 5 was the projected recruitment ad revenue for next 5 years which resembled a ski jump without the little lift at the end. We never got to the other 51 slides. As i showed him that £20 million of revenue was not and could not be made up (i was not responsible for online). To paraphrase the Labour manifesto of 1983 , it was the longest career suicide note in history. My stratospheric rise in company suddenly halted and i think i resigned about 4 months later without a job to go to and joined 33, and a few years later set up UK's first digital ad agency.

I am not sure if you had told me then that CW print would close within 10 years - not even i would have believed you but this industry transformation seems to be getting faster and faster. And the thing is - it is so difficult for those inside the establishment media to see it or more importantly to react to it, its such a potentially horrible scenario that it leads to inertia with brief bouts of panic thrown in. And i think that point still applies to many media owners out there now.


Paul Stephens said...

One of my first jobs at RBI was on CW's little sister IBM Computer Today...oh how we envied them with their huge yield and enormous pagination. In fairness to RBI they did see writing on the wall and reacted accordingly but I share your whimsical sigh as this former giant leaves us.

domsumners said...

Hi Paul. RBI did absolutely the right thing and thus have a robust digital rec business (VNU not so much....)
Good to hear from you as well by the way

Neil Thackray said...

Dom, Do fancy writing an expert piece for us at www.themediabriefing.com. In the light of CW demise, and your memory of accurately soothsaying what was happening in the past, what would you put in your slides today if you were advising a b2b board with a legacy print business? You can pm me at neil.thackray@briefingmedia.com