Category Archives: Publishing

Goodbye Maxim

This week Maxim shut, neatly closing a chapter of publishing that I was there to witness at the start. When Maxim first launched, I was at Dennis Publishing on the MacUser team, and I remember the small gathering the company held for the new magazine in the boardroom, next door to our office space. There was a couple of crates of beer – no models, alas.

In some sense Maxim was a me-too product, based on the hugely-successful lad’s mag formula which the brilliant James Brown had created at Loaded. The difference, according to the press packs sent to potential advertisers, was that Maxim was going to be more upmarket, aimed at the ABC1 readership that advertisers adore.

It didn’t quite turn out like that, of course, and squaring the circle between the matey feel of lads mags and the high-end values of ABC1’s proved to be beyond everyone.

But Maxim made the ineffable and brilliant Felix Dennis vast amounts of money when Felix put his balls on the line – and a lot of the cash from his UK company – and launched Maxim in the US. When it was sold in 2007, it was for between $250 and $270 million, which adds up to a decent pay day for Felix. He won’t have to sell the mansion in Mustique just yet.

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Warning: This post contains strong language

You know what I’d love the BBC to do? More than anything else in the world?

Turn off comments on all the BBC blogs. And, by way of explanation, post this:

“Dear former commenters. We have decided to save the many millions of pounds per year it costs license fee payers to allow you to post your borderline racist, idiotic and vituperative comments on every single thing we write. Frankly, you are a bunch of cunts. Get your own blogs. Love, Auntie.”

I really don’t see why one single penny of my license fee should go towards allowing every little middle-Englander cretin and every woo-woo crystal-worshipping “concerned parent” to gain the tiny little bit of attention they get from their comments. If they want their voices to be heard, they should start their own blogs. As well as learning to write without using all caps, multiple exclamation marks, or the phrase “Nu Liebour”.

Seth Finkelstein nails why TechCrunch sucks in one line

In a comment on Rogers Cadenhead’s blog, Seth Finkelstein perfectly captures what the deeper reason behind the TechCrunch/Last.fm poor reporting is:

“The basic problem is that there’s no profit (from attention) in being right, but there is in being first.”

The first post on a topic gets most of the inbound links, most of the traffic, and most of the attention, something that was obvious to me even when I was online editor at MacUser ten years ago. In that sense, TechCrunch is simply responding to the market.

The theory has always been that good information will out, and some people might suppose that the coverage that Last.fm’s response has got is evidence of that. But the problem is that it basically took RJ being incredibly blunt – “TechCrunch is full of shit” – in order to get the message across. He, and other Last.fm employees, had already denied the story in less-blunt language in the TechCrunch comments, and on other blog posts elsewhere. Yet the story continued to get traction until Last.fm effectively made it personal.

The interesting question is what consequences does this have for communications, and responding to erroneous stories. If the pressure is on sites to be first, rather than being right, then we are going to see a lot more of these stories – and sooner or later, a company will get into serious financial problems because of one.

Will it take a court case before big new media organisations implement better reporting standards? Will it take a company suing someone like Mike Arrington personally before people realise that the editorial process evolved for some very good reasons?

LG Arena: Fantastic hardware, slightly bonkers UI

LG has officially announced the LG Arena (not to be confused with the LG Arena in Birmingham), and accompanying it is a slightly frenetic promo video:

As with LG’s previous high-end phones, the hardware looks fantastic. There’s Dolby Mobile audio, video capable of 120fps, a five megapixel camera, and 8GB of RAM built-in. None of that is too much of a surprise: the LG Viewty that I had a look at in 2007 featured similar hardware which was way ahead of its time.

What remains to be seen is whether the new interface – dubbed “S-Class” (Mercedes, are you listening?) – makes the phone more usable than its predecessors. I found the Viewty frustrating, because I knew that the hardware was brilliant and then had to dive through twenty different menus and options to get to the feature I wanted. We’ll see if S-Class works better.

One area that I think may be an issue, though, is applications. As far as I can tell, The Arena runs Java apps on top of LG’s own OS – which means it’s unlikely to gain much mind-share from developers. And one thing that the success of the iPhone has taught us is that application support is a big selling point for smartphones. Witness the slew of announcements of new app stores from virtually everyone at MWC this week for evidence.

LG going with a more mainstream phone OS would fix this problem of course, so it’s no surprise that the GM730 – a Windows Mobile phone with S-Class – is apparently waiting in the wings. Interestingly, the company is talking up its commitment to Windows Mobile this week, despite having announced that it was  working on Android phones for launch in the second half of this year.

It will be interesting to see whether LG decides to pick one OS and run with it, or offer basically the same hardware running multiple OS’s, and see what the customers decide they want.

UPDATE: A quick confirmation that LG is still planning to produce phones based on Android appears here, for those who might think that the concentration on WinMo today means the Android plans have been ditched.

There are plusses and minuses to online newsrooms

Investigative journalism to make an online come-back? | Blog | Futurismic.

“The problem being that, currently, online advertising doesn’t provide enough income to run a proper newsroom, even with the lower overheads of the straight-to-web model. But will that always be the case? I’d be a lot more tolerant of internet advertising if I felt I was getting decent content as a result of it.”

This is worth saying, repeatedly, to those who claim that there’s no problems with moving news online.

The Jeff Jarvis conundrum

I have a certain amount of sympathy for Ron Rosenbaum's post about Jeff Jarvis. Like Ron, I used to be an avid reader of Jeff's blog, and liked it a lot. And, like Ron, I've become disillusioned by Jeff and his arguments over the past year.

Let's make this clear from the start: a lot of what Jeff says is right.I have absolutely no need for Jeff to "save" me. I have no idea how long exactly Jeff has been involved in online publishing, but I doubt that he could describe me as a print zealot. I first worked as an online-only journalist around 1998 (when I was first dedicated online editor for MacUser) and although I've moved back to print a couple of times (follow the money!) since then, I'm currently, again, only working day-to-day online.

However, as Ron says, somewhere over the past year Jeff has become increasing reluctant to accept criticism, instead concentrating on smearing anyone who criticises him. Arguments which are still in play are dismissed out of hand as "old hat", and anyone who raises them as a "curmudgeon".

I think that one of the commentors on Jeff's supposed-rebuttal, "Chris", puts the way I feel about it best:

"It is possible to simultaneously believe …

1) That Jeff always has a lot of sharp insights and has kept coming up with them for many years;

2) That Jeff has become progressively more infatuated with his
stature and that his opinion of his own brilliance and deep
significance just keeps growing;

3) That print journalists need to hear the tough insights Jeff offers; and

4) That Jeff hasn’t come close to a coherent answer to the question
of where revenue is going to be found to sustain anything close to the
level of journalistic thoroughness to which we’ve grown accustomed.

I live in California, a megastate with an extremely poorly run state
government that has grown steadily more dysfunctional. Nevertheless,
over the past five years, the print journalists covering Sacramento
have been cut by at least half. At important hearings on things like
overcrowded prisons or failing schools, hearings where the future of
the state is being shaped, sometimes there are no journos in sight.
Before long, the Sacramento Bee, the L.A. Times and AP may be the only
ones with regularly staffed bureaus in the capital of the nation’s
largest, richest state.

This is not healthy. For all Jeff’s smarts, I’ve never seen him
offer a single insight into how this sort of common journalistic
decline will be addressed — or at least a single insight that I thought
had a practical chance of success."

Chris is completely right – and unfortunately, Jeff has spent a lot of time not answering this question, and accusing anyone who raises it of being "a curmudgeon". While Jeff has been happy to dish out the rhetoric, it appears that when someone uses the same tools against him, he gets more than a little thin skinned.

The Jeff Jarvis conundrum

I have a certain amount of sympathy for Ron Rosenbaum's post about Jeff Jarvis. Like Ron, I used to be an avid reader of Jeff's blog, and liked it a lot. And, like Ron, I've become disillusioned by Jeff and his arguments over the past year.

Let's make this clear from the start: a lot of what Jeff says is right.I have absolutely no need for Jeff to "save" me. I have no idea how long exactly Jeff has been involved in online publishing, but I doubt that he could describe me as a print zealot. I first worked as an online-only journalist around 1998 (when I was first dedicated online editor for MacUser) and although I've moved back to print a couple of times (follow the money!) since then, I'm currently, again, only working day-to-day online.

However, as Ron says, somewhere over the past year Jeff has become increasing reluctant to accept criticism, instead concentrating on smearing anyone who criticises him. Arguments which are still in play are dismissed out of hand as "old hat", and anyone who raises them as a "curmudgeon".

I think that one of the commentors on Jeff's supposed-rebuttal, "Chris", puts the way I feel about it best:

"It is possible to simultaneously believe …

1) That Jeff always has a lot of sharp insights and has kept coming up with them for many years;

2) That Jeff has become progressively more infatuated with his

stature and that his opinion of his own brilliance and deep

significance just keeps growing;

3) That print journalists need to hear the tough insights Jeff offers; and

4) That Jeff hasn’t come close to a coherent answer to the question

of where revenue is going to be found to sustain anything close to the

level of journalistic thoroughness to which we’ve grown accustomed.

I live in California, a megastate with an extremely poorly run state

government that has grown steadily more dysfunctional. Nevertheless,

over the past five years, the print journalists covering Sacramento

have been cut by at least half. At important hearings on things like

overcrowded prisons or failing schools, hearings where the future of

the state is being shaped, sometimes there are no journos in sight.

Before long, the Sacramento Bee, the L.A. Times and AP may be the only

ones with regularly staffed bureaus in the capital of the nation’s

largest, richest state.

This is not healthy. For all Jeff’s smarts, I’ve never seen him

offer a single insight into how this sort of common journalistic

decline will be addressed — or at least a single insight that I thought

had a practical chance of success."

Chris is completely right – and unfortunately, Jeff has spent a lot of time not answering this question, and accusing anyone who raises it of being "a curmudgeon". While Jeff has been happy to dish out the rhetoric, it appears that when someone uses the same tools against him, he gets more than a little thin skinned.