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'Tech Journalist Hit By Car'

Reporter's Notebook: Infoworld, R.I.P.

That's not quite true. IDG, publisher of the pioneering weekly tech magazine, has announced that April 2 will be the last print edition of the magazine. But it will continue to publish online. Infoworld was one of the first technology publications dating back to its start in 1979.

I love the immediacy and accessibility of online publishing, but I'll miss the print edition of Infoworld, which is where I got my start as a tech reporter. It now seems oh so very 20th century to think in terms of weekly deadlines, but it was very rewarding to see the new issue arrive in the mail, the fruit of our collective efforts.

Reporters sometimes helped out as cover models. One I remember in particular was of disgruntled reviews editor Rory O'Connor sitting in front of a closet overflowing with computer junk. The cover feature was about computers in the closet going unused. This was around 1983; have we solved that one yet? (Yes, I know about recycling and donations, so please don't write in about that).

My then Infoworld colleague John Markoff had the first major story about Microsoft's plan to release something called Windows. It's amusing to think back on that story and note that Microsoft wasn't sure if it wanted windows on the screen to be only tiled (i.e. adjoining) or able to overlap.

Then there was late great novelist and Infoworld reader John D. MacDonald. He flamed me. To be more specific to the era, he sent me a now-cherished piece of hate mail.

The one-page, typewritten letter was in response to my editorial criticizing Time magazine for naming the computer its "Person of The Year" and putting "a lifeless sculpture" of a computer and person on the cover. The creation was by famed sculptor George Segal, and MacDonald was mortified anyone (that would be me) could be so ignorant of art.

Of course there was a lot less going on in tech back then.

I remember pitching a few stories to then-editor John C. Dvorak who responded that a better story would be if I ran out into traffic.

"C'mon," he said. "'Tech Journalist Hit By Car.' People will love reading that."

Ah, we had fun.

Infoworld the magazine was in many ways a remarkable story of survival. In addition to numerous editors and publishers, the magazine went through many design and format changes -- tabloid to magazine back to tabloid. But its name survived and remained relevant through many new waves of technology.

Certainly the Infoworld name was an improvement over its predecessor, a newsletter IDG purchased called Intelligent Machines Journal.

So why no more print edition? I can only speculate the ad dollars weren't there to keep it going. Infoworld also had a focus on the enterprise market, not unlike its sister publication Computerworld. Perhaps that overlap was part of the problem.

I worked for an Infoworld-competitor in the mid-90s where I had access to focus group comments by a group of IT professionals. One comment repeated by several of them was that they didn't have time to read magazines and got most of their tech news online. That was over 10 years ago. So perhaps Infoworld's move to a strictly online entity is long overdue.

Oh, and John? After all these years I have to say you were right. That is a great headline.

David Needle is West Coast Bureau Chief for internetnews.com.