Publisher loses the plot: Elsevier closes CW and sells website

Computer Weekly, after 45 years of UK publication, is to close its paper edition and the web site is to be sold by Elsevier to TechTarget, a US publisher.

This is a case study in how to lose the plot.  CW was a pioneer of IT journalism.  Steady and also, in certain times, speedy. Speedy under the editorships of Helena Sturridge and John Lamb.

Exclusive, original and quality

I fought against it as writer, news editor and editor of its rival Computing.  Eventually, with the efforts of Alan Cane, my predecessor as editor, and me and all other staffers, Computing became the leader.  We mainly did this through the development of exclusive, original and quality news, features and comment.

  • Exclusive because we investigated it;
  • Original because we presented it better; and
  • Quality (fit for purpose) because our readers needed to know what we wrote.

CW learned its lesson and employed the remarkable investigative journalist Tony Collins.  He broke story after story and shared his skills with others.

TechTarget knows its business

TechTarget, the buyer of the website, is an interesting company.  It had a quarterly turnover in the 4th quarter of 2010 of $26.9 million, of which online publishing generated $24.3 million.  Its profit was $1.3 million in the quarter.  It knows its business.

Sorry for those journalists on the paper edition of CW whose publishers did not know their business.

But then Computing does not look any better now.

Both publishers lost the plot.  You can publish on paper and online with exclusive, original and quality content.  And make money.

Many more Elsevier publications will go the way of CW, its eventual publisher.  Elsevier was looking for a buyer for its business-to-business publications mainly located in Sutton, south London.  They may go as a block or, as CW, as one off sales.  All a sign of a publishing house which has lost its way.

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