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PC World Editor Resigns When Ordered Not to Criticize Advertisers 327

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the i-can-only-imagine dept.
bricko noted a story of our modern journalism world gone so wrong it makes me sad. "Editor-in-Chief Harry McCracken quit abruptly today because the company's new CEO, Colin Crawford, tried to kill a story about Apple and Steve Jobs." The link discusses that the CEO was the former head of MacWorld and would get calls from Jobs. Apparently he also told the staff that product reviews had to be nicer to vendors who advertise in the magazine. The sad thing is that given the economics of publishing in this day and age, I doubt anything even comes of this even tho it essentially confirms that PC World reviews should be thought of as no more than press releases. I know that's how I will consider links from them in the future. But congratulations to anyone willing to stick to their guns on such matters.
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PC World Editor Resigns When Ordered Not to Criticize Advertisers

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  • by grub (11606) <slashdot@grub.net> on Thursday May 03, 2007 @01:47PM (#18976609) Homepage Journal

    That's good, an editor or news outfit should never be swayed by an advertiser. Guess I'll go read Slashdot's Intel Opinion Center [slashdot.org] now...

    • Re:Good character (Score:4, Informative)

      by TheSpoom (715771) * <slashdot@NOSpAM.uberm00.net> on Thursday May 03, 2007 @01:51PM (#18976667) Homepage Journal
      To be fair, I'm sure they used to have an AMD one as well. In fact... [slashdot.org]
    • Re:Good character (Score:5, Insightful)

      by noewun (591275) on Thursday May 03, 2007 @01:52PM (#18976679) Journal
      MacWorld is an awful magazine and has been for years.
      • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Thursday May 03, 2007 @03:10PM (#18978139) Homepage Journal

        MacWorld is an awful magazine and has been for years.

        MacWorld is such garbage that even now that I use a Mac for work five days a week - and I don't think a day has passed in the last two months that I haven't had to do something with it - I actually dropped the MacWorld subscription that my employer was paying for.

        If you won't even allow the purchasing department to bring it to your desk so that you have reading material for when you're on the can... it's a message :P

      • Re:Good character (Score:5, Insightful)

        by SeaFox (739806) on Thursday May 03, 2007 @03:42PM (#18978831)

        MacWorld is an awful magazine and has been for years.

        And that's too bad, because they used to be a GOOD magazine. These are some things that sent MacWorld down the tubes, and they are responsible for most of them.
        1. Pandering to newbies. They got rid of the in-depth Photoshop instructional articles, technical discussions about interfaces and architectures, and some of their better columnists. Now more content was devoted to color correcting old family photos and "secrets" to using iTunes one could get from the help function just as easily. I'm sure part of this was from Macworld buying MacUser out and needing to expand to keep MacUser's readership, but it also meant more articles that took less "work" to write, IMHO.

        2. The iPod. It seemed every third issue had a cover story about the iPod. How to pick an iPod that was right for you. A review of the latest model of iPod, iPod accessories. Even when Macworld's publishers started a whole separate magazine [playlistmag.com] devoted to digital audio and portable DAPs (note: a magazine that rarely talked about any player BUT the iPod) they still kept it up on Macworld. The magazine was less and less about the very topic it was named for!

        3. Getting thinner. Macworld's average page count has gone down by about a third between 1998 and 2002. Some issues have half as many pages as issues from 1997. Less content, and they trimmed the size of the magazine itself in dimensions slightly, too. The magazine is so slim now they had to change the font they used on the spine for it to fit.

        4. Ads, Ads, Ads. The number of ads in Macworld increased. It used to be most ads in Macworld were full page, half-page or sidebar style. And there would only be one type generally on each page. But around the time the size of the magazine was cut down the layout began to change, too. There might be more than one sidebar, two quarter-page ads on opposite corners. A full page on one side and the facing page having a half-page ad on it, ect. The result was Macworld appeared to be filling the margins around their advertising with content, instead of the other way around.

        5. Everything is glowing! A saw fewer poor reviews about products, especially Apple products. They would go through a comparison on three Apple desktops and after saying model Y was not a very good value compared to model Z, they would still give model Y four stars! A third party product they considered "flawed" would still get two stars. I didn't feel I could really trust the reviewers at Macworld to give proper weight to the shortcomings of products when they wrote their reviews, which didn't make the reviews particularly usable to me.

        So after being a Macworld purchaser and later subscriber for over 10 years, I let my sub end in May 2006.
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by tholomyes (610627)
          Ugh. It's so true, all of it. I used to learn cool things from that magazine, why did it have to go and pander to the dumbest common denominator?
        • That's what they used to call their advertising-review policy.

          I can't say that they always followed it, but they seemed to take it seriously enough in the past. They wrote articles on it, and they were not afraid to give a half-star rating when warranted. And I remember they often gave one or two-star ratings to prime advertisers like Apple. (They used to use stars, not mice.)
    • Re:Good character (Score:5, Insightful)

      by TravisW (594642) on Thursday May 03, 2007 @02:13PM (#18977073)
      (1) Point taken, but that's different. Intel may be an advertiser here, but there's no evidence that there's any soft-sell payola here. (Are Intel products ever reviewed here, even, besides by voluntary member posts, i.e. is this even a potential conflict of interest?) (2) The tagline aside, Slashdot is not a news site: Its stories are not reported as (even ostensibly objective) news -- they're reported more like opinionated analysis (which includes both thought-provoking and shameless flamebait). From recent (posted) summaries: "Perhaps by then, people will have forgotten how eBay enabled buyer 'Blazers5505' to hook up with sellers like 'oneclickshooting' just weeks before the worst mass shooting in modern US history, prompting eBay to issue a gun-parts-don't-kill-students-guns-and-ammo-do statement that showed little evidence of its celebrated commitment to social consciousness." "Google's motto is 'Don't Be Evil' -- but they sure have an evil non-disclosure agreement!... Luckily, someone has posted excerpts from the NDA before he signed it and had to say silent forever." "I wonder if this time it will be more obvious to the courts that Verizon's patents aren't so original?" "How long will we let rampant censorship go on, in the name of economic interest?" Also, cf. most stories about China, Diebold, Microsoft, the Microsoft topic icon, etc. These opinions may be variously well-supported by data, but they're opinions nonetheless, and are often (and unfortunately) disguised as news. How about "Analysis for Nerds, (Mostly) Stuff That Matters?"
    • "Free" Press (Score:5, Insightful)

      by queenb**ch (446380) on Thursday May 03, 2007 @02:15PM (#18977133) Homepage Journal
      The video game industry has suffered from this for ages. No matter how crappy or buggy the game, it would get good reviews from the rags and web sites. The reason for this is that the gaming companies would threaten to pull advance copies of their next game if any game got a bad review. Since not being to review games would effectively shut down the site/rag, they piped down and played along. It's been going on with the auto makers for decades. Seriously pan one of the new line up, and see what you get to write about next year. The beauty products industry has also long operated along these lines. Write something less than glowing about their new shade of lipstick and see if you ever get another sample. The fashion industry is another example.

      Now that this has become the "norm", I'm not surprised to see it spreading to other parts of the computer industry. So much for having a free press - guess that they're not really "free" after all if all you have to do is buy a few ads.

      2 cents,

      Queen B.
      • by gEvil (beta) (945888) on Thursday May 03, 2007 @02:28PM (#18977381)
        The video game industry has suffered from this for ages. No matter how crappy or buggy the game, it would get good reviews from the rags and web sites.

        Good point. 4/5
      • Re:"Free" Press (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Chris Burke (6130) on Thursday May 03, 2007 @02:40PM (#18977631) Homepage
        Which is one of the reasons why my favorite game review site was always Old Man Murray. Well, that and it was hilarious. But they didn't get review copies, they went out and bought games to play. So no reason to play it up for the sake of the game companies, and every reason to say something is a piece of crap and waste of money because they actually wasted money.

        I tend to put more weight into reviews on GameFaqs than official reviews in the rags, for exactly this reason. You still get fanboyism, you get people who want to convince themselves they didn't waste $50, whatever. I think "I paid $50, so if I don't say the game is good I admit I'm a fool parted easily from their money" is a lesser influence on people than "If I don't say the game is good, I won't get paid".
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Endo13 (1000782)

        The video game industry has suffered from this for ages. No matter how crappy or buggy the game, it would get good reviews from the rags and web sites. The reason for this is that the gaming companies would threaten to pull advance copies of their next game if any game got a bad review. Since not being to review games would effectively shut down the site/rag, they piped down and played along. It's been going on with the auto makers for decades. Seriously pan one of the new line up, and see what you get to write about next year. The beauty products industry has also long operated along these lines. Write something less than glowing about their new shade of lipstick and see if you ever get another sample. The fashion industry is another example.

        Or alternatively if your publication is actually worth more than a pile of dirt you might actually buy the next product from the "offended" vendor and still review it... and then expose them for the asswipe they are.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          Or alternatively if your publication is actually worth more than a pile of dirt you might actually buy the next product from the "offended" vendor and still review it... and then expose them for the asswipe they are.

          The problem being that they don't get an advance copy, meaning that they can't release the review before the game (for all those people wondering if they should pick it up on release day. By the time you buy it, play it, and write the review no one really cares about that game anymore because t

      • Re:"Free" Press (Score:5, Insightful)

        by akpoff (683177) on Thursday May 03, 2007 @03:22PM (#18978435) Homepage
        This is why Consumer Union (publisher of Consumer Reports [consumerreports.org]) buy everything they review at normal retail outlets. If you don't accept advertising there's nothing the manufacturers can take away from you. Of course the catch is you have to actually have enough subscribers paying the real cost of the magazine to make it work.
        • they could reject advertising, but accept free loans/gifts of merchandise for the tests.
          Behind the appearance of impropriety is the very real possibility that a manufacturer will send you a known best quality sample, while shipping crap to stores. Remember the stories about manufacturers sending overclocked cards, or other devices with custom/"beta" BIOS to product reviewers? Yeah. It happens.
      • Re:"Free" Press (Score:5, Interesting)

        by JudasBlue (409332) on Thursday May 03, 2007 @04:15PM (#18979485)
        I worked in the game press as a writer and editor for over a decade at many magazines and sites, and this wasn't true at least up to 2002, past then I wasn't on a masthead anywhere and don't know. A lot of people have this perception that game companies do this, and it doesn't happen. Yes, magazines pretty much have to have review copies, because a magazine takes weeks to get from the point it is written to the shelf. When a new game is coming out, who is going to wait a month after it is on the shelf for a review? So yes, the magazines need review copies. But the publishers need the magazines to review the games just as much. The idea that one bad review is going to cause a publisher to cut off one of their sources of possible buzz for their future titles is just not the way it works. It might be that way for small fry sites, but not for the larger sites or magazines, the publishers can't afford it.

        What does happen then? Why do magazines end up publishing good reviews of fairly crappy titles? Because a lot of the time what they are reviewing isn't a finished game, for one thing. It is a 90% done beta because, remember, magazines have to hit the shelves on time, so they have to review what they can get, and they give the publisher the bennie of the doubt. Then there are the trips and tchokies. Want to go to Candlestick Park and take batting practice from Vita Blue? I got that junket for Electronic Games Magazine once. Want a $250 leather jacket for free? Well, you should see the ones we got for the last of the Harpoon series, they kicked ass. And so on. I had closets full of this stuff... Finally, there is simply workload. If you are working in the industry, you never finish a game. You never come close. When I was at the height of my work in that field, I was burning through 200 games or so a year to keep up. How many of them do you think I really *played*? The four or so a year I wrote strategy guides on got completely played, the others got a day, if that.

        I really doubt much has changed in the last five years. The industry is very good at influencing the game mags and the game mags and everyone makes money off the gamer. It is a symbotic relationship, but not one where anyone ever actually threatens to "pull" review copies or anything so crass. Again, it might happen to the small fry websites, but not to any of the players.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by MORB (793798)
        The sad thing is that those are mostly empty threats.

        There is a french website (www.factornews.com) with editors that have pretty high standards and are known to often criticize games publishers and developers alike quite harshly (and god help you should you release hastily photoshopped preview screenshots). They not even doing this as a full-time job, they rely on advertisements from publishers to pay for their bandwidth, and they're not quite the biggest french video game review website.

        Yet they receive f
  • by EvilGoodGuy (811015) on Thursday May 03, 2007 @01:50PM (#18976651)
    Well I'm glad to hear this at least. I do find it a bit funny that PC World is now skewed to Apple heh.
    • by john82 (68332)

      I do find it a bit funny that PC World is now skewed to Apple heh.

      Especially after years of being skewed to Microsoft and Dell.

      Seriously, I'm expected to believe that PC World (and it's largest competitor PC Magazine) have NOT been shilling the latest PC products lo these many years? If McCracken says no, then that supposed impartiality is a recent shift.

      I'd be more concerned that PC World plucked their current CEO from MacWorld which has been a little bleh of a fawning fan-mag for at least the last 5+ years. If PC World were going to make a statement for good editing, t

  • Wait a... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dedazo (737510) on Thursday May 03, 2007 @01:50PM (#18976661) Journal

    essentially confirms that PC World reviews should be thought of as no more than press releases. I know that's how I will consider links from them in the future.

    Does this mean the Slashvertisements will stop and you will actually start checking submissions? Never mind PC World, hooray for Slashdot!!

  • by houstonbofh (602064) on Thursday May 03, 2007 @01:51PM (#18976675)
    This is another example of how traditional media is dieing. It used to be that "the net" was a wild place of unfounded reports, biased reviews and slander. Now the print media has surpassed even the net, and it is slower! We are watching the desperate and terrified end of an era.
  • Way of the world. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SatanicPuppy (611928) * <Satanicpuppy@@@gmail...com> on Thursday May 03, 2007 @01:52PM (#18976677) Journal
    There is constant pressure in all organizations that make money from advertising to curry favor with your advertisers by being nice to them. If you've ever worked in media, you know there is like a demilitiarized zone between the editorial and the advertising department, and both sides deeply resent the other side for what they perceive as the others failure to understand their company mission.

    It is a testament to how evil the ad people are that they really see it that way. The time when ads were a necessary evil and and the actual content was the important part is long gone, and we're trending more and more toward the content being nothing more than a lure for ads.

    I never thought much of PC World, but I have to respect an Executive Editor who is willing to put his principles ahead of his job. Of course, now I think less of PC World because their damn executive editor had to quit because they put their whoring for ads ahead of the needs of their readers.
    • by PCM2 (4486)
      Harry was the editor in chief, actually. Top guy. An executive editor, if they had one, would report to him.
      • Re:Way of the world. (Score:5, Interesting)

        by SatanicPuppy (611928) * <Satanicpuppy@@@gmail...com> on Thursday May 03, 2007 @02:32PM (#18977477) Journal
        Semantics. Where I am the EiC == the Executive Editor, and the editor that reports to the Executive Editor is the Managing Editor, and it goes down from there.

        He sounds like a stand up guy. He certainly did the right thing...If your publication descends into newsvertisements there's really no way to get your credibility back. Look at PC Magazine...They gave Norton Antivirus a 4.5 out of 5 one year in a review, and the average customer response was a 1.5, where 1 was the lowest possible score. What a crock of crap.

        People don't read things for the advertisements, hard as it may be for ad people to accept that, and if your content becomes one with your advertising, then you start hemorrhaging readers, and your days are numbered.
    • by Bearpaw (13080) on Thursday May 03, 2007 @02:48PM (#18977773)
      I can't believe CmdrTaco and so many other people here are being so fracking gullible.

      Harry McCracken was editor-in-chief of a major tech mag supported by big advertisers. I find it hard to believe that Colin Crawford's suggestion was anything new. At most, maybe he was just more blunt about it than previous CEOs.

      I'm sure there's a hell of a lot more to the story than an oh-so-noble stance by McCracken.

      • by javaxjb (931766) on Thursday May 03, 2007 @11:26PM (#18983777)
        Harry McCracken has been an editor at several publications for quite some time. I was a freelance writer in the mid-80s to early 90s and was regularly took assignments from him. I was once assigned to review a new software package that was in late beta and was concerned that the review would turn out negative, but I was still dealing with a beta version. I wanted to hold until the release version, but deadlines and schedules being what they are in the publishing business that wasn't an option. Harry said maintaining integrity was important, that I should point out the problems and we would note that it was still in beta (I actually liked the design, but the bugs made it too unreliable for serious work). While things can change in nearly two decades, this fits the character of Harry McCracken as I knew him.
  • by Deadplant (212273) on Thursday May 03, 2007 @01:53PM (#18976719)
    Dude, this is obviously a late april fool's joke.

    Sincerely, I. P. Freely
  • Hey, it happens (Score:5, Interesting)

    by $RANDOMLUSER (804576) on Thursday May 03, 2007 @01:54PM (#18976727)
    I remember when John Dvorak got fired from InfoWorld for criticizing the Trash-80 when Radio Shack was one of InfoWorld's biggest advertisers.
    • by PhxBlue (562201) on Thursday May 03, 2007 @02:01PM (#18976865) Homepage Journal

      Yes, but that was a good thing. After all, it's John Dvorak we're talking about.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by MarkGriz (520778)
      "I remember when John Dvorak got fired from InfoWorld for criticizing the Trash-80 when Radio Shack was one of InfoWorld's biggest advertisers"

      You sure that was the reason?
      Maybe he got fired because he was just talking out of his ass and people couldn't stand him..... same as now.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Nimey (114278)
      No, no, no. If you want to write like a net.kook, you have to EMPHASIZE random UNRELATED WORDS like THIS. Boldface doesn't do it, it's LOTS OF CAPS.

      See the Time Cube website for the canonical example.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by ezzewezza (84083)
      I keep reading your hidden message, but it just doesn't make sense to me. "John Dvorak fired Trash-80 Radio Shack biggest" Am I missing a cipher key to translate that into something else?
  • YES! (Score:2, Interesting)

    Good for him. Now start a blog!
    • Re:YES! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by TheRaven64 (641858) on Thursday May 03, 2007 @02:07PM (#18976961) Journal
      Or get scooped up by some other publication, which makes a huge PR deal about how their content is not biased towards advertisers.

      It's odd that places that do bad reviews tend to stop getting review hardware. If I see a product for the company, and a review site I trust has a review of their older product and says it sucks, I'll take this as an indication of their future products. If I see other reviews elsewhere that say both are goo, I will trust neither. If I see a review for the old one saying that it's rubbish, and a review for the new one saying that it's good, then I will trust that one a lot more, because I know that they are not afraid to say bad things when they are justified. It's odd that manufacturers can't figure that out.

  • by Glowing Fish (155236) on Thursday May 03, 2007 @01:59PM (#18976823) Homepage
    As much as it is bad that corporations control (or at least influence) the media through advertising, it wouldn't go on if consumers wouldn't allow it to happen. If consumers would be willing to spend a little extra money on a magazine, or in general be just a little more critical of their purchases, companies wouldn't have so much power to misinform.

    All the money that would be spent up front in buying magazines that are consumer, and not advertiser supported, would be saved when they bought equipment that was the best value for their money, instead of being overly hyped junk.
    • by Applekid (993327) on Thursday May 03, 2007 @02:14PM (#18977095)
      I don't know. Consumer Reports seems to do pretty well with being 100% reader supported.

      The issue then becomes the content in the magazine isn't good enough to warrant the price an advertising-free magazine would cost.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by moore.dustin (942289)
      You are 100% correct, it is the consumers fault that this is the state of affairs. If you care enough to think that this is wrong, then you should care enough to not support that magazine at all. It goes for anything too. If the consumer would actually have and enforce his own values through his purchases, everything would work itself out. If you are %100 anti Microsoft then you should not use or support their products. If all consumers did that then companies would fold when they fuck up like this. Sure yo
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        If you care enough to think that this is wrong, then you should care enough to not support that magazine at all. It goes for anything too. If the consumer would actually have and enforce his own values through his purchases, everything would work itself out.

        The nature of capitalism is to capitalize upon human greed. That is to say, you can rely upon each individual to act in their own best, short term interests. PC Mag fired someone for not deceiving the customers, thus it is in customers own best interests not to buy the magazine, but to go with a competitor who gives them more accurate info. In general, capitalism takes time to work through high levels of misinformation, but eventually it happens. This has nothing to do with idealism on the part of purchas

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by PCM2 (4486)

      As much as it is bad that corporations control (or at least influence) the media through advertising, it wouldn't go on if consumers wouldn't allow it to happen.

      Unfortunately, no. The money is not coming from the consumer. PC World is going to price its magazine at a rate that will help to subsidize the cost of putting it on the newsstands (which, if you understand how that business works, is extremely wasteful) while not alienating readers. The real money then comes from advertising.

      Because magazines

  • British Mags (Score:5, Informative)

    by Jerrry (43027) on Thursday May 03, 2007 @02:00PM (#18976841)
    British computer magazines generally have much better editorial content than their American equivalents and don't seem to pull punches when it comes to reviews.

    Borders and Barnes and Noble carry most of the popular ones.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by thetable123 (936470)
      It's not just the computer rags from over there. They will bash anything if it is garbage regardless of who advertises or sponsors. Check out Car magazine where you can see them bash a manufacturer right next to said manufacturers ad. I would mention Top Gear too, but as it isn't advertiser supported...
    • by brunascle (994197)
      just started reading Linux Format and PC Format (both from UK), and i love them both. pretty damn expensive (imported) but well worth it.
    • by Deagol (323173)
      I agree. I heard a British review called Austrailian Table Wines a few years ago. They pulled no punches on that one, I can tell you ;)
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by king-manic (409855)
      British computer magazines generally have much better editorial content than their American equivalents and don't seem to pull punches when it comes to reviews.

      Borders and Barnes and Noble carry most of the popular ones.


      I'd be inclined to agree if I ever read any UK content... if only I could ever get past page 3.
  • Will they send the articles to the advertisers' public relations offices first to make sure the content of the stories is acceptable?

    Yes, I know, I shouldn't give them any ideas. But if they're not going to be impartial in their reviews, they should stop calling themselves "media" and start calling themselves PR.

  • by xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) on Thursday May 03, 2007 @02:04PM (#18976917)

    PC World reviews should be thought of as no more than press releases
    ...and that's different than the source of 95% of SlashDot "articles" how?

    (Also, I can't believe someone here has a PAID subscription to PCWorld; what a mark!)
  • by Glowing Fish (155236) on Thursday May 03, 2007 @02:05PM (#18976919) Homepage
    Actually, this article brought up a question for me:
    Who reads computer magazines, anyway?
    Although I am not the most 31337 person in the world, I am pretty much surrounded by the world of computers, but I have never, in my life, put down money for a computer magazine. And no one I know, including many programmers, hardware people, or network administrators, seems to be a follower either.
    But yet I see racks of these things at grocery stores. Who is buying these things? Middle management who want to keep up to date with the computer world?
    • by brunascle (994197)
      me. toilet, subway.

      certainly not PC World though. maybe in a waiting room and there's nothing better.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by crush (19364)
      Well, sometimes a magazine is lighter and easier to carry around and higher resolution than a laptop. You can get a nice DVD of the latest Fedora/Debian/whatever plus some articles to read for about $10 (e.g. Linux Format), you can help pay for the journalism that goes into something like Linux Journal (which is excellent).

      There's a place for dead tree still.
    • Dunno. (Score:2, Informative)

      by eddy (18759)

      Back in the 80s and 90s I read and cherished every new issue of a certain home computing magazine (for a while I was getting two). But after the internet exploded, it seems quite pointless. There was a while there where I'd consider buying Dr.Dobbs, but then they became... boring (not to mention silly expensive in this part of the world).

      I'm currently paying for GDM [gdmag.com] but delivered online. Not very convinient to read (in fact it's almost painful, with the whole issue being multiple layers of images (for "pr

    • by owlstead (636356) on Thursday May 03, 2007 @02:24PM (#18977301)
      "Although I am not the most 31337 person in the world, I am pretty much surrounded by the world of computers, but I have never, in my life, put down money for a computer magazine. And no one I know, including many programmers, hardware people, or network administrators, seems to be a follower either."

      Uh, I travel by train, and I love to read the C'T magazine while traveling. It's available in Dutch and German only, unfortunately (for you). It's pretty geeky and pretty good, and has very interesting articles. I used to buy Dr Dobbs as well, but now I only buy the Java specific ones (too many articles that are not in my field). I used to buy the Byte as well, if only for the well written (but very common) articles by Jerry Pournelle. Alas, that time has gone.

      It's definately still possible for a magazine to be better written, better informed than most grub on the internet. Of course, 50-70% of the magazines aren't worth a dime, and I won't buy them. I think most computer magazines from the UK are *horrible*, but that might be because we only get the really popular ones. I like the linux magazines very much as well, but they are too expensive over here.
    • by goombah99 (560566)
      Way back when I used to read and study kilobaud and it's big brother Dr. Dobbs. You could really learn a lot from those. Lot's of tutorials and interesting projects. Not unlike say Popular Mechanics used to be long ago. or How scinetific american used to have the amateur sceintist and the Martin Gardeners educational columns.

      The current crop of mags is for imbeciles mostly. Occasionally they alert you to something you did not know. And perhaps the occasional feature by feature comparison of two (expen
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by dabraun (626287)

      Although I am not the most 31337 person in the world, I am pretty much surrounded by the world of computers, but I have never, in my life, put down money for a computer magazine. And no one I know, including many programmers, hardware people, or network administrators, seems to be a follower either.

      Not trying to insunuate that you're a n00b or anything, but back before the internet computer mags were a valuable source of information. Computer Shopper (which used to be several times larger than it is now) w

  • by PingXao (153057) on Thursday May 03, 2007 @02:05PM (#18976931)
    In the early Windows vs OS/2 days PC Magazine (different owner/publisher then) was guilty of bending its editorial views towards its largest advertisers. It was part of the reason that Windows ultimately gained momentum that couldn't be stopped. Notice I said "part of the reason", because it wasn't the only one by far. In more ways than one this is not news.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by retro128 (318602)
      The other part of the reason was that OS/2 Warp totally sucked. I was working at a computer shop at the time. I wanted to quit Windows, bad. I installed OS/2 on my computer at home, and on my dad's computer. In a lot of respects, it was even clunkier than Windows. Then my dad gave me a "get this thing of my system or else" ultimatum, so I had to throw Windows back on it. I followed soon after because stuff just didn't work consistently and getting Windows apps to run under it was a pain in the ass.

      Wel
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Brett Buck (811747)
      No, this has been going on since the invention of magazine advertising. Commercial magazines (and TV shows and radio shows and every other kind of for-profit venture) have always and will always have this "feature". I cannot be otherwise, not if you want to stay in business.

                Brett
  • by manekineko2 (1052430) on Thursday May 03, 2007 @02:10PM (#18977027)
    "I doubt anything even comes of this even tho it essentially confirms that PC World reviews should be thought of as no more than press releases."

    I know it's old hat to complain about the poor quality of editing at Slashdot, but seriously now, "tho"? This is how my 13 year old little sister types in chat sessions, not how the editors of a semi-respectable news site read by millions should write news stories.

    In this case, they can't even hide behind the defense that these were the submitter's original words and as editors they can't be expected to catch every little mistake (even though the editors of other sites that have even higher posting volumes like Engadget don't seem to have this problem). In this case, though, this is actually the editor's own words. For shame...
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by drinkypoo (153816)

      In this case, they can't even hide behind the defense that these were the submitter's original words and as editors they can't be expected to catch every little mistake

      If they were actually editors, then they couldn't hide behind that defense either, because editing is the editor's job.

      But they're not actually editors, they're just called editors.

      An editor is one who edits, and as we can see there's none of that going on around here.

  • by bjcubsfan (471972) <yhsmiller@NOspaM.yahoo.com> on Thursday May 03, 2007 @02:12PM (#18977049)
    I don't think that the economics of publishing are to blame. Poor choices by management seem a more likely scape goat. Take for a counter example consumer reports [consumerreports.org]. Although they are a non-profit, they manage to take no advertising and still fund tests of hundreds of cars every year. I also like that they do not allow products to tout how highly they were rated and they buy products to test anonymously. Surely this model could be applied to get unbiased computer reviews. That is if you don't think that consumer reports' computer reviews [consumerreports.org] are good enough.

  • by monopole (44023) on Thursday May 03, 2007 @02:13PM (#18977089)
    ...for not deifying Jobs these days.
  • by kinglink (195330) on Thursday May 03, 2007 @02:16PM (#18977143)
    Now I like this guy, but he no longer has a job... anywhere.

    Sorry people this is sadly the way the world works now and it sucks ass. Advertisers always get a good score, and everyone gets good stores unless you totally fuck up. Go to http://www.gamerankings.com/ [gamerankings.com] http://www.gamerankings.com/itemrankings/sites.asp [gamerankings.com] average scores from some of these sites are jokes. Yet people continue to claim that 5 is average? BS.

    But even more than that, I recently felt like checking out old Xbox games so I went to http://xbox.ign.com/index/reviews.html?constraint. floor.article.overall_rating=9&constraint.return_a ll=is_true&sort.attribute=article.overall_rating&s ort.order=desc [ign.com] this link which is all the 9s and above for the Xbox. If you've played most of these games you'll know they are in no way 9s or at least not as high as they are given.

    A friend mentioned a good idea as a way to solve this, find a way to get reviews for games written 20 years after the game comes out, to see if the game really does stand the test of time, because otherwise you get this overly biased bullshit where advertising dollars affect the review scores.

    The bottom line I've found is every review site and magazine is biased. It's just the simple fact of life that we have to understand when seeking out reviews and articles.
  • In a world where we have debates as to whether "sponsored" content on web sites needs to be marked as such, it's not surprising that this happened.

    I have personally seen instances where the choice of the "of the day" or "of the week" featured product was taken out of the hands of Editorial and became a sellable placement without any disclaimer.

    They call it "advertorial", but when it's not disclaimed as such, it's the death of editorial integrity. But when the competition is hot and heavy for ad dollars and you have popular competitors who are willing to prostitute their editors... you can't send your bank a note about your solid ethics in lieu of a mortgage check.

    This might raise a small tempest in a teapot, and for a brief time create some editorial/advertorial transparency in response to the backlash. But that will merely be the same as a cancer that seems to go into remission.

    - Greg
  • I gave up my free subscription to PC Week and every other Ziff-Davis publication more than 15 years ago when they refused to publish anything critical of Microsoft. It was amazing how every PC Week laboratory test, Microsoft came out on top. Their evaluation criteria were always written with a Microsoft bias. In this modern era of corporate FUD and directors malfeasance, one must maintain a skeptical outlook.
  • if this guy is related to the famous journalist Zak McCracken?
  • Well, here's a little bit of encouragement... whoever hires this guy as their new Editor-in-Chief will immediately get a good looking over as a candidate for my reading.
  • by Soong (7225) on Thursday May 03, 2007 @02:32PM (#18977479) Homepage Journal
    and hope he gets a good job at a reputable publication.

    Almost the same thing happened to my local news paper [newspress.com] when many key people at the paper quit [blogspot.com] over bias which was being pushed down from above by the paper's owner. It's been a long messy trail since then.
  • by brit74 (831798) on Thursday May 03, 2007 @02:40PM (#18977617)
    Reminds me of an old story about FOX news and Monsanto - although this one involves legal threats rather than advertising dollars, it shows (like the PC World story) how companies with money can distort the news. FOX News hired some reporters to be "The Investigators". When the reporters did a story critical of a Monsanto product, Monsanto started with legal threats. FOX decided to that they wanted to either rewrite the story to make it more Monsanto-friendly, or kill the story altogether. FOX even tried to bribe the reporters - part of that bribe involved the reporters not talking about the Monsanto story (including not bringing it to another news organization), not talk about the Monsanto product anywhere, and not talk about FOX' suppression of that story. Ultimately, FOX delayed and delayed the story with rewrites (83 versions) until they fired the reporters once a window appeared in their contract. Ultimately, they brought FOX to court, but appeals courts found that *falsifying news is not actually against the law*. (It's funny to hear some FOX news reporter's report at the end where the words are carefully chosen to make it sound like FOX was completely in the right, and makes it sound like the reporters were just making up inaccurate claims against FOX. When you control the news, you get to tell everyone how it happened, I guess.) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9RlAiTprpXc [youtube.com]
  • by Groo Wanderer (180806) <charlie.semiaccurate@com> on Thursday May 03, 2007 @02:47PM (#18977747) Homepage
    I write for the Inq, and I have seen the whole paid for journalist thing crop up time and time again, although not at the Inq. I can say with certainty that if there was even an indication of this, anyone working for us would be thrown out so fast it would astound you.

    A while back when it got particularly bad, I wrote this up:
    http://www.theinquirer.net/default.aspx?article=30 042 [theinquirer.net]
    And if anything, things have gotten quite a bit worse. It isn't the names you might recognize as much as tge power brokers behind the scenes, usually with a good chunk of site ownership.

    All of the accused will blather on about firewalls between advertising and editorial people, but it is all a crock, usually worth the recycling value of the pixels it is printed on.

    I have been offered bribes, both cash and other from people, but I have _NEVER_ gotten any pressure to change a story for content, although I have had edits made so we wouldn't get our asses sued off for libel/slander/whatnot. I agreed with these in the long run.

    To put things in perspective, when I was in the process of ripping HP up and down, starting here:
    http://www.theinquirer.net/default.aspx?article=11 542 [theinquirer.net]
    I was at the last Comdex in the press room. I was sitting beside Nathan Brookwood and a CNet guy, and had written a particularly biting piece about HP/Carly (I forget which one, there were many). and I got an email from Mike Magee saying "HP wants to.....".

    Needless to say, that was an asshole pucker moment. I clicked on it ready to call my lawyer next, and it read:
    "....advertise with us.". I wrote him back and asked if it meant that I had to tone down the stories. I forget the exact wording of the response, but summed up it was "not a chance".

    Basically, there are honest editors/owners/management and dishonest ones. The dishonest ones will lean on people to do things that they know better than to do. The honest ones will leave, the dishonest ones will stay, and you quickly get a dishonest organization. (As an aside, the same holds true for companies and PR)

    Let me sum this up clearly, there are a LOT of rotten sites out there, and also a lot of good ones. The rotten ones are quite good at hiding/disguising their paid for status, you probably wouldn't recognize it if you saw it. Most people throw accusations of bias around as soon as they disagree with the conclusion a site makes, usually a fanboi-ish thing. This is wrong.

    Where you get a lot of the bias is things like roundups of hardware that you can not get your product into if you do not have an advertising contract with the site. Hot samples that are not purchasable being overlooked if a banner ad is running prominently on the site, and other similar things. Things are bad out there. One great one is sites selling awards to companies, you know those logos gold/diamond/three thumbs up/whatever that you see on boxes, can be bought from a number of sites. Look for reviews where you see a mediocre review with a summation of 'Three Silver Starzzz!!!' at the end, and you can be pretty sure money changed hands.

    There is also the good old fashioned sending of a review with a check, but that is less common now.

    Basically, be skeptical. Read every review about a new release, and look for the one that stands out. Look for reviews that say 'kick-ass overclocking part' and the forum posts saying 'I can't get anywhere near that'. These are not 100% sure signs, but keep a tally, patterns will emerge.

    In the end, things are bad. If you are moderately skeptical and have an IQ greater than a warm moist towelette, you will see the patterns. You are not imagining them.

                -Charlie

  • by BenEnglishAtHome (449670) * on Thursday May 03, 2007 @03:03PM (#18978045)
    There used to be a very expensive magazine named Gun Tests. (They might still be in business; I don't know.) They bought guns at retail just like normal folks then tested them, kind of like what some of the more trustworthy consumer groups do. Being a gun nut, I bought the magazine for a while but it was too expensive to continue subscribing.

    The odd thing was that I learned for sure something I had long suspected; gun writers are mostly liars. They love every new gun lent to them for testing. If a gun is a real loser, the mainstream magazines would just decline to publish anything.

    Gun Tests was different. They bought popular guns and showed them for the junk they were. The test were wonderful, authentic, and informative. It was exactly the sort of information you'd get from a trusted friend. The problem was that a single black and white only, rough paper, stapled magazine (we're talking just one step above a nice 'zine) of 24 pages or so cost more than 10 bucks, iirc. (And that was a long time ago.)

    Which leads me to ask - Is it possible for a testing magazine that doesn't accept ads to be priced affordably enough to actually sell? Is it possible for a magazine that accepts ads to be honest?

    Gun Tests had no ads but the cover price was a killer. The Absolute Sound managed combine ads and *seemed* to be objective back when I used to read it, a couple of decades ago, but I was never completely confident in them. Nowadays, I dunno. Does integrity exist anywhere?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by dkf (304284)

      Does integrity exist anywhere?
      Microprocessor Report has plenty of integrity (e.g. when they a chip gets a certain level of performance, you can believe it) but it's also hellishly expensive, as it costs nearly $900 for a single year online-only subscription. Given that it's really aimed at pro chip designers, this isn't surprising.
  • by muel (132794) on Thursday May 03, 2007 @09:28PM (#18983095)
    I'm the former music editor at the Dallas Observer, an "alt-weekly" newspaper whose ad dollars have declined radically in the past two years. My job, as I saw it, was to serve as a critical voice about Dallas' independent music scene, but when I decided to aim my critical sights at concert venues that advertised in the paper, I suddenly heard a lot of noise and hubbub about how my work had become "too critical and reported."

    The Dallas Observer is part of the Village Voice Media chain of papers, and one of the men responsible for overseeing all 17 music sections in the nation, John Lomax, happened to be very good friends with the Dallas publisher (essentially, the city's chief of financial decisions), as they worked together at the VVM's Houston paper for years. Once I wrote about advertisers, my relationship with the publisher vanished, and criticisms from Lomax--which had previously been all but non-existent--jumped tremendously (though he chose to issue his decrees through my Dallas boss rather than send me a single request himself). A month later, the syndicate had a "clean sweep," firing arts and music staff members at a number of papers--particularly the Village Voice's Robert Christgau--in a two-week span. I was fired very abruptly--never EVER given a "do this or else" warning, because as I'd said, Lomax was too gutless to ever issue a directive, nor was I ever given a yearly review. The reason given was "performance issues addressed on a repeated basis," which, as I've redundantly stated, wasn't even true. The replacement editor has followed the "no criticism" rules steadfastly ever since her September 2006 hiring.

    The print advertising world is staffed with people who are expected to deliver results on a quarterly basis. The notion of cycles doesn't exist for people who get fired if they have a down MONTH, let alone a down quarter--and the past few years' panic over circulation scandals hasn't helped sanity on that side of any newspaper or magazine's staff. Sadly, that sense of panic has won over most publications' responsibility to deliver trusted content, but any publication that loses its dignity and respect for readers will ultimately be seen for what it is by the target audience.

    Or, better put, PC World will get theirs.

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