Nieman Foundation at Harvard
ProPublica’s new “50 states” commitment builds on a decade-plus of local news partnerships
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Nov. 19, 2008, 1:54 p.m.

PC Magazine shows the way to transition online

So another one bites the print dust: PC Magazine will stop print publication in January.

But this isn’t just another step in the downward spiral of information-on-paper. This is, in some ways, a best-case scenario for newspapers — how it could go if lots of things go right. What do I mean?

— No layoffs for editorial employees — only on the print-production side.

— A full 70 percent of their revenues come from digital — “tens and tens of millions” of dollars. Their advertising base — primarily tech companies — has already made the transition to an online focus. Their online revenues have risen an average of 42 percent annually since 2001.

On one hand, a transition of tech ads online makes perfect sense. But to give PC Magazine credit, there’s a lot more competition online for what PC Magazine does than there is for what any American newspaper does. There are thousands of blogs and other sites competing for the narrow tech-nerd audience. The fact that PC Magazine has made increasing amounts of money when faced with that kind of competition is impressive.

How’d they do it? I’m sure there are lots of answers, but here’s one:

— PC Magazine realized long ago that one single brand isn’t enough online. Alongside the flagship PC Magazine site, over the years they’ve started a passel of niche sites targeting specific readers, with names like Smart Device Central, Cranky Geeks, Gearlog, and GoodCleanTech. Their eggs are spread across many baskets. I’m sure a few experiments have flopped along the way, but they’ve shown a willingness to experiment.

Joshua Benton is the senior writer and former director of Nieman Lab. You can reach him via email ( or Twitter DM (@jbenton).
POSTED     Nov. 19, 2008, 1:54 p.m.
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