Will Magazines Become Obsolete?

By Terry Wohlers

Internet Editorial

An edited version was published in Rapid Prototyping Journal, Vol. 8, No. 2, 2002, Emerald. Copyright 2002 by Terry T. Wohlers

I receive about 25 magazines, newsletters, and technical journals each month. Until recently, I had a hard time keeping up. In recent months, the situation has changed because their size has shrunk. Some magazines that before were nearly 200 pages are now less than 100 pages. One reason is that advertisers have cut back due to challenging economic times. This, in turn, has reduced the amount of editorial in the magazines. Most publishers try to offer close to a 50/50 balance between ads and editorial.

Historically, magazines have been a source of industry news. However, the Internet is now playing a key role in delivering news in an efficient and timely manner. Consequently, it is next to impossible for magazines to offer the value in news that they once offered. Most magazines need several weeks lead time, minimum, whereas Internet publishers routinely receive the news and distribute it the same day. This has also led to a reduction in the size of magazines.

Today, I rely on the Internet for about 90% of the news I receive related to CAD and rapid prototyping. Some time ago, I subscribed to two services—TenLinks.com and MCADcafe.com—that send me news several times a week. Both give the titles of press releases, along with a link to a web page that includes the press release. In seconds, I can browse the list of titles and determine whether any of them interest me.

Another service that I use is the CADwire (cadwire.net). It offers some of the same services as TenLinks and MCADcafe, but also provides custom feeds into websites. For example, if you go to wohlersassociates.com and click on “Press Releases” or “Industry News,” you will see a page of links to recent press releases created by the CADwire. For a fee, the CADwire will make the feed look however you wish and will display only the press releases of interest, based on pre-established criteria. I chose to have press releases appear that relate to CAD, rapid prototyping, and reverse engineering.

Other Internet publishers are producing newsletters and news articles that are delivered by e-mail. For example, Ralph Grabowski, a CAD book author and a former technical editor at CADalyst magazine, offers upFront.eZine (www.upfrontezine.com) that is published and e-mailed each Tuesday. More than 8,000 subscribers in 71 countries read it. This excellent newsletter is published in five languages and is free, although a $25 donation is suggested.

Joe Greco, another prolific writer and CAD expert, writes a regular news-oriented column titled CADENCE MCAD Tech News (www.cadenceweb.com/newsletter) and is distributed free of charge to subscribers. In addition to it and the other items mentioned above, I receive a number of press releases directly from the companies who create them. This has reduced the cost of sending a press release and has made it easier for the recipient to copy and paste pieces of the text directly into a story.

Last but not least, many people in the RP industry receive news, etc., from the rapid prototyping mail list (rp-ml), a list server hosted by some good people in Finland. The rp-ml sends e-mail messages to its subscribers each day, ranging from a few to many. Depending on your needs and interests, some of the messages are useful. To subscribe (it's free), send an e-mail message to majordomo@rapid.lpt.fi. Enter "subscribe rp-ml" in the body of the message. The subject line is ignored. After you've subscribed, post questions and comments to rp-ml@rapid.lpt.fi. A mail list archive is updated daily and found at http://rapid.lpt.fi. You can unsubscribe at anytime.

Despite the incredible efficiency of receiving news over the Internet, I still enjoy paging through a magazine, browsing the ads, and reading articles. I’ll admit, however, that I spend only a fraction of the time doing it, compared to before. Increasingly, for me, the print publications getting the most attention are the newsletters. They are short on pages but long on content. I do a lot of plane travel, so I can take them with me without adding much weight.

It is my belief that the size and number of magazines will continue to decline. It’s simply impossible for them to compete with the Internet, especially on news. Over time, the same could happen to books. However, if you are like many, there’s no substitute to cuddling up with a good publication on a cold winter day. For this and other reasons, printed publications are unlikely to disappear, but whether we like it or not, the Internet will continue to eat away at their market.