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The Media

Ziff Davis Teeters 309

Longtime Reader writes: "It is a short article with links all over the place, but Linux and Main is running a story that says Ziff Davis might file for bankruptcy this week. The company plans to stay in business by expanding its focus on computer games, the story says." To get you started, reader idiotnot contributes this link to coverage in the NYT.
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Ziff Davis Teeters

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  • by qurob ( 543434 ) on Monday July 29, 2002 @08:06AM (#3970944) Homepage

    When ZD published PC Magazine, you could read Machrone and Dvoraks ramblings, read a round up of 50-60 PC's on the market, and there was a real tech section.

    Computer Shopper, the 'Hard Edge' with Bill and Alice, PAGES UPON PAGES OF ADS....

    The Internet has ruined magazines.
  • Forget it (Score:4, Interesting)

    by dnoyeb ( 547705 ) on Monday July 29, 2002 @08:08AM (#3970958) Homepage Journal
    Nobody will accept Ziff Davis doing games. At least nobody will be willing to accept that they are impartial. Considering how many of "our own" seem to be bought, Ziff Davis would give the impression that they are pre-bought and just waiting to close the deals.

    Personally, though they seem an amazing resource, I only use their website when I encounter software thats not popularly reviewed such as obscure mp3 creation or audio ripping programs, and scanner programs, and web site creation software that I have never heard of. Best they stick to what they do but focus their attention at serving their customer base and not catering to the OEMs. Cultivate a relationship with groups like slashdot, anandtech, HardOCP, etc...
    • Re:Forget it (Score:3, Insightful)

      by kawika ( 87069 )
      >> Nobody will accept Ziff Davis doing games.

      Huh? They have owned Computer Gaming World [gamers.com] for quite a while.

      >> Best they stick to what they do but focus their attention at serving their customer base and not catering to the OEMs.

      News flash: Their customer base is the OEMs, not the readers. Your paltry few bucks per issue barely covers the cost of postage or distribution. The advertisers pay most of the costs.
    • Re:Forget it (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Zathrus ( 232140 ) on Monday July 29, 2002 @08:50AM (#3971181) Homepage
      Nobody will accept Ziff Davis doing games.

      Except for the few million people that already do through subscriptions or rack purchases of "Official US Playstation Magazine", "Xbox Nation", "Electronic Gaming Monthly", "GameNow", or "Computer Gaming World".

      At least nobody will be willing to accept that they are impartial.

      Anyone that accepts that any game rag is impartial is fooling themself.
  • Good riddance! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by nbvb ( 32836 ) on Monday July 29, 2002 @08:08AM (#3970960) Journal
    I hope Ziff Davis folds up completely and collapses.

    Their magazines don't offer any straight journalism; they're just pure advertising, page-for-page. All their product reviews and reports read just like the ads that follow on the next page!

    Maybe if they fold and these awful rags go away, the CIO-types of the world will actually get some literate, technical information instead of marketing BS! ... Nah, I'm dreaming too much.

    Goodbye, ZD. And good riddance.

    --NBVB
    • Re:Good riddance! (Score:2, Insightful)

      by it0 ( 567968 )
      they're just pure advertising, page-for-page
      Isn't that how a magazine makes money?
      You should buy wired then, it takes some skill to find the articles!
      • Re:Good riddance! (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 29, 2002 @08:29AM (#3971067)

        they're just pure advertising, page-for-page Isn't that how a magazine makes money?

        People will also buy magazines which contain *useful information*.

        Unfortunately, most of those magazines were
        long ago "Ziffed" - bought out, and the useful
        content replaced with vendor-supported 'product
        reviews'. All of which have the same theme:
        "they gave us this stuff, and bought a full
        page ad, and maybe threw in some cash on the side, so we'll say it's great stuff."

        Irv
      • Re:Good riddance! (Score:3, Interesting)

        by f00zbll ( 526151 )
        One might believe that is the case, but if you go back in recent history, one can find examples that prove otherwise. This is semi-OT, but it is relevant. My wife was reading a recent article in MS magazine by Gloria Steinem that addressed this issue. When MS magazine was driven by advertising, they were pressured to drop articles that was critical of the clothing and makeup industry. Now that MS has changed their revenue model, they are back to publishing articles driven by honest reporting. Here's a recent editor's note [msmagazine.com]. I honestly believe consumers are willing to pay more for a magazine if it is well written with solid content. If I had to choose between paying 3.00 for a magazine full of adds and PR junk or 12.00 for objective reporting, I'll pay 12.00.

        This whole pattern of corporate america dictating was is news worthy needs to swing back towards objective reporting. I think many people are sick and tired of the drivel on the news stands today.

        • I honestly believe consumers are willing to pay more for a magazine if it is well written with solid content.

          This could only be true if

          a) Consumers were literate enought to appreciate well-written stories

          and

          b) Consumers had enough reading comprehension to understand and remember the solid content of the articles.

    • Except they're not folding, they're just filing for bankruptcy. They are profitable, and are only seeking to massively increase their profits primarily through firing workers and ceasing publications of magazines that don't sell enough advertisments. They have no problem getting readers. In fact, they're ceasing the publication of several magazines that have over a million readers.

      Basically, expect less real reporting, more ads, more fluff, and more money for ZD. In this situation, the market supports the fluff (because its what those with money want) more than it supports actual knowledge (since those people rarely want to sit through ads).
    • They seemed to have more technical meat about ten years ago; guess I was less educated then.
      Extreme Tech [extremetech.com] actually has some juice. It's certainly less troll-ified than this site... Dvorak is often not pure advertising. Pure whatremains unkown...
  • about time... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by f00zbll ( 526151 ) on Monday July 29, 2002 @08:10AM (#3970970)
    I hate to see people loose their jobs, but zdnet and pcmag have been useless for over 5 years now. PCMag in particular stop reporting back in 95 and only rehashed PR junk. It is time for new crop of magazines to take the place of all the dead weight in the tech reporting industry. Zd used to have solid in depth articles that were fairly objective. But soon after win95 came out, that all changed. Of course these are my own biased opinions, but I know other techies share similar perspectives.
    • Re:about time... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Erik Fish ( 106896 )
      You're absolutely correct. I remember well the days when OS/2 could have been a contender and how shockingly little was ever written about it in PC Magazine.

      Ever since then PC Mag (along with every other ZD publication) has transitioned from serious tech journalism to serious whoring.

      These days I read Maximum PC for a similar level of info to what I used to get in PC Mag, but as good as it is it's still a magazine aimed at hobbyists. Hopefully the fall of ZD will give someone else a chance to launch some magazines for the markets ZD currently dominates that contain useful content rather than whoring.
    • Agreed. ZD is Microsoft's bitch.
      PC Magazine has been, since 95ish, Microsoft's perpetual-upgrade propaganda rag.
    • by drpatt ( 557639 ) on Monday July 29, 2002 @09:33AM (#3971455)
      I stopped buying PC Rag after their ridiculous "comparison" of OS/2 and Win95. It was only two pages, with 80% covered by a single graphic, correctly stating the differences in how each OS protected its running apps. After showing clearly how OS/2 was superior in crash protection, they chose their winner: "Verdict: Windows95 by a mile." After the barrage of hate mail in the next issue's ed page, they responded that they chose Win95 because they knew it would win the bulk of the market share. Technical merit had nothing to do with it. They went with MS, against the facts they presented, because they knew MS would win anyway. That was the last straw for me. They deserve what they are getting now.
      • Yes, and their treatment of WinCE/PocketPC versus Palm has been similar. Back when WinCE handhelds were new, PC Mag touted their "familiar" Windows-like interface as this great advantage, despite being double the price and half the productivity power of a Palm. They simply bet with the projected winner instead of publishing an objective and truthful comparison. Feh!

    • PC Computing pretty much died at about the same time - just after Win95 came out.
  • by af_robot ( 553885 ) on Monday July 29, 2002 @08:12AM (#3970981)
    Microsoft suddenly decided to cut their advertising budget by 70%.
  • by ThogScully ( 589935 ) <neilsd@neilschelly.com> on Monday July 29, 2002 @08:13AM (#3970987) Homepage
    I remember liking PC Computing, but that went downhill it's last few years and then became Smart Business Computing or some such non-technical nonsense. Of all the non-journal magazines, they were one of the better ones I found.

    Did they do Computer Shopper too? That was great way back when, before they shrunk it to normal size and all. You could find some damned good deals in there (and I think there were some good articles at times too, but that wasn't what I bought it for...).

    I hope they come back to a technical crowd at least. There's too much crap about the business of the internet and computers - I want more technical information available to the masses.

    -N

    • Computer Shopper was great in its day. Waiting for it to come each month so you could see what new equipment was available and at the cheap prices, checking a bunch of the ads for the lowest price, then calling up ready to make an order only to be told you needed to wait a few days to get the new price. The article were just something to skim through before you tossed it for the new month.
      However the internet killed it. What value does Computer Shopper have when you can go to places like pricewatcher and do a quick search and get the lowest price. In addition the internet provides quicker access to new equipment.
    • PC Computing went downhill after they fired Penn Jillette from his back page after he said some anti-God things. I'm a Christian and I wasn't even insulted by it, but PC Computing was never the same after that.
  • NEXT! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    kind of ironic for slashdot to be reporting on another company being close to bankrupt...

    Enjoy the smirk while you can!

  • Good riddance! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by hlh_nospam ( 178327 ) <concealedhandgun@ g m a i l . com> on Monday July 29, 2002 @08:17AM (#3971012) Homepage Journal
    I clearly remember ZD as one of the pioneers of misleading mail-order campaigns. They sent a renewal notice that was designed to look like an IRS notice. That was over 10 years ago, and I immediately cancelled the remainder of my PC Magazine subscription, and have avoided dealing with them ever since. As they took over other magazines that I subscribed to, I let those subscriptions lapse. That was partially because I disliked ZD's behavior, and partially because the computer magazines were gradually becoming a waste of time anyway.

    I try to avoid dealing with companies that use unethical advertising. Latest example that comes to mind is VeriSign.
  • Interesting Numbers (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Thomas M Hughes ( 463951 ) on Monday July 29, 2002 @08:21AM (#3971030)
    Sorting through the NY Times Article here were some interesting tid-bits I picked up.

    * Willis Stein & Partners paid $780 million for the company during the bull market.

    * The company's earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization are projected to be $6.5 million in 2002

    Translation: At the current rate of profit, it will take over a hundred years to make up the initial investment. Ouch.

    * (Earnings) are expected to rise to $34.4 million in 2003 if the restructuring goes as planned.

    * Savings will be gained from the closing of money-losing magazines and the layoff of 700 of the company's 1,150 employees the last year.

    Translation: We plan on making close to six times as much money as we were before, primarily by firing over 70% of our workforce, cutting our costs drastically.

    Now, here's what bothers me to some extent, and by no means do you have to agree with me on this issue. But according to those numbers, this company is profitable. Granted, its not profitable enough to justify the high price it was bought back in April of 2000, but its in the positive, and appears to be staying there for awhile. However, it seems that being profitable isn't good enough these days. Not only does a company have to be profitable, but it doesn't appear to have any room to do anything that is 'extra-profitable', that is, things that are not done solely for profit.

    For example, the article makes mention that the company in question had discontinued its Yahoo! Internet Life Magazina, which had a distribution of over a million. So clearly, some people liked the product. However, it wasn't discontinued due to declining interest, but rather because the number of ad pages had decreased by 50% over the past 2 years. My translation: "If you aren't in a good demographic, you don't get anything published for you."

    That's not to say that ZD is under any obligation to operate at a loss for the benefit of the masses. My issue is that ZD is not operating at a loss, but they still plan on putting 700 people out of work, and discontinuing publications that have readership. If there ever was a place where the mythical 'invisible hand' of the market were giving lots of people the finger to enrich the few, this were it. After all, the only people who have to gain from this restructuring are the share holders, while hundreds of workers go unemployed and millions of readers lose their reading material.

    So much for the market automatically doing what's best for everyone, eh?
    • by kawika ( 87069 ) on Monday July 29, 2002 @08:30AM (#3971075)
      The NYT article said that ZD lost $30 million on Yahoo Internet Life since its launch. I think that's a pretty good reason to close it.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      * Willis Stein & Partners paid $780 million for the company during the bull market.

      * The company's earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization are projected to be $6.5 million in 2002

      Translation: At the current rate of profit, it will take over a hundred years to make up the initial investment. Ouch.


      I'd just like to point out that it doesn't really work like that. When you buy a company, you don't sit around waiting for the checks to come in so you can get your money back. Well, not just that, anyway.

      The key to making your money back is in market capitalization. If I spent $100 million to buy a publicly traded company, then I'm going to hope that the market capitalization (the total value of all outstanding shares of the company's stock, more or less) is equal to or greater than $100 million. Of course, if it were, I couldn't have bought it for $100 million; the owners would have held out for more money.

      So what you want to do is lose a little money on the initial sale of the company, then keep the company profitable long enough to increase its market capitalization to a point where the company is worth more than you paid for it. This isn't directly related to the amount of money the company makes each quarter, although that's a factor. It's directly related to the open market share price of the publicly traded shares of company stock.

      For instance (I'm too lazy to go digging up numbers, so I'll invent them instead) if ZD has 10 million outstanding shares, and the per-share price today for ZD stock is $50 per share, then the company has a market capitalization of $500 million. (Grossly oversimplified business math, there.) If I tried to sell it today, I'd lose a lot of money, because I paid over $700 million for it.

      But if the company continues to make a profit, the stock price will (hopefully) gradually climb to $60, $70, $80 per share. Poof! I've made money, because the company I own (rather, that I own majority shares of) is worth more than I paid for it. I could sell it and make my money back, and then some.
      • by sphealey ( 2855 )
        'd just like to point out that it doesn't really work like that. When you buy a company, you don't sit around waiting for the checks to come in so you can get your money back. Well, not just that, anyway.
        The key to making your money back is in market capitalization. If I spent $100 million to buy a publicly traded company, then I'm going to hope that the market capitalization (the total value of all outstanding shares of the company's stock, more or less) is equal to or greater than $100 million.
        Except that market capitalization doesn't come from nowhere. Or isn't supposed to come from nowhere anyway, although the period 1998-2001 changed that thinking a bit ;-)

        If the efficient market hypothesis is correct, the market valuation should be based on the present value of all future earnings of the firm. Over the long term these earnings can only be profit, plus some allowance for the possibility of R&D coming up with a breakthrough development.

        If the market cap is higher than the simple PV of current profits, then the market expects that the company will change or grow in some way to increase profits from their current level. However, see Yahoo, Nortel, and Worldcom for examples of what happens when these expectations turn out to be wrong.

        sPh

        PS Yes, I am familiar with the technical terms such as EBITDA, "free cash flow", "operating earnings", etc. To simplify this discussion I used the word "profit", which over the long term means essentially what you think it means.

    • I've been in this business too long. My premeturely grey & balding skull just can't comprehend.

      I can remember when my company -- an aerospace company yet -- and others would actually build value by improving their competitive position, doing R&D, letting their employees learn, and improving the company's inherent capabilities & knowledge. They'd use the down time when the economy was in a slump to get ready for the next upturn.

      What a concept, actually prepare for the inevitable market slump and improve revenues/profits.

      Would that happen today? Naw, that'd mean looking beyond the next quarter! Even if a company wanted too, their managment would be crusified by the Wall St. analysts & their investors.
      • by Gryphon ( 28880 ) on Monday July 29, 2002 @09:22AM (#3971372)
        > Would that happen today? Naw, that'd mean
        > looking beyond the next quarter! Even if a
        > company wanted too, their managment would be
        > crusified by the Wall St. analysts & their
        > investors.

        I just worked as a consultant (via a 3rd party company) for a client that has a hiring freeze on programming & technical staff. This is so that, to Wall Street's eyes, the client is keeping its core expenses (employee salaries) lower in relation to revenue.

        Of course, there are still project deadlines to meet, so they hire consultants to fill those technical roles.

        Sole benefit: payment for consultants can apparently be written off as "one-time" expenses.

        Two problems:

        1) Consultants cost more per hour than employees. 2) There is high turnover with consultants (for example, I don't work for that client any more) and the client has problems meeting targets for key projects, etc.

        Duh! How is this good for the company long term? They avoid hiring permanent employees to have a nicer-looking balance sheet, but sacrifice the benefit of stable, productive, long-term employees?

        Ridiculous, if you ask me. Hooray for market forces!
        • Just imagine making these accounting decisions daily (and the ones you mention aren't all that creative). You can start to see how these accounting scandals get started. Many of those who get caught, never even realized when they crossed the line.
        • Employees are more expensive than consultants. They get benefits (5% of their pay in vacation alone) and severance, and options, if you still give them. You have to keep paying them even when they run out of productive work to do. They only pay off in the intangible realm of "community" and "culture" that can help you across difficult times more easily, and they become less expensive when the economy peaks and consultants start costing an arm and a leg again.

          Closing units that are below your arbitrary profit margin is how business is meant to work. If those units served markets that someone else can serve profitably, they'd be stupid not to poach the laid off workforce. If the market isn't there, then nobody should be forced to create a product for it.
        • The company you refer to will end up with a lower market valuation eventually if your assumption that using consultants hurts them in the long run is correct. Their products won't be as good, they'll ship later and bring in lower revenues and they'll eventually run low on cash and customers and market share, regardless of accounting tricks.

          If the market notices that companies that use a lot of consultants end up underperforming in the long run, then a company's stock will be penalized at the first rumor of an influx of consultants, and the hand of the market will push companies into using full time employees instead.

          On the other hand, if you are wrong about the economics of using consultants, the market will continue to reward such behavior. Perhaps you understand the economics of business success better than the market, but that's not how I'd bet my own money. ;-)

    • While it's profitable, it's wouldn't surprise me if the $780m was largely obtained due to loans. In that case, there's interest on those loans. So, how well does that $6m+ stack up against the interest payments? Agreed, someone needs to have their shorts put in a knot for making the purchase in the first place, but the way the system works, it may well not be a money-maker at all.
    • My issue is that ZD is not operating at a loss, but they still plan on putting 700 people out of work, and discontinuing publications that have readership.

      To be honest, I'm somewhat astounded at your post. You start off with a set of facts, and then go off the deep end with your conclusion contradicting your facts!

      Their not cutting profitable parts of their company, they're cutting the unprofitable parts. Do you really think that they should continue paying 700 employees that are losing money for them?

      Now, if you want to make the argument that somehow they should give these losing parts of the company more time to become profitable, that's a different argument, and I (or probably you) don't have enough facts to render a judgment on that.

      Once again I have to say: Employees are not 'owed' employment.

      • Perhaps. But I keep remembering the way bus companies cut back on unprofitable routes to save money. And then nobody wants to depend on the last bus, so more routes become unprofitable...

        Sometimes the profitable parts depend on the other parts to work properly. This might not apply here. The logic isn't as clear. But all too often these "re-structurings", and "efficiency measures" only end up killing what had been a working organization.

        The bus companies may never recover from the assualt on them by GM. Will the publishing companies ever recover? Or will we end up with an impoverished publishing industry that only survives on trickles of government support?

    • * The company's earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization are projected to be $6.5 million in 2002

      Translation: At the current rate of profit, it will take over a hundred years to make up the initial investment. Ouch.


      This isn't profit. This is EBITDA. Profit comes once you account for interest, taxes, deprication and amortization.

      But according to those numbers, this company is profitable.

      No, the company is losing money. When a company files for bankruptcy protection, it means it cannot pay interest to its creditors. It doesn't have enough cash to cover its financial obligations.
    • Ywhich had a distribution of over a million. So clearly, some people liked the product.

      They sent me a years worth of copies, free, without any instigation on my part. So I was probably one of the million at one point, even though the damn thing went straight from the mailbox to the recycle bin.
    • Now, here's what bothers me to some extent, and by no means do you have to agree with me on this issue. But according to those numbers, this company is profitable. Granted, its not profitable enough to justify the high price it was bought back in April of 2000, but its in the positive, and appears to be staying there for awhile.

      The problem with the argument here is in the blind acceptance of the statement that ZD is truly profitable. As everybody should be quite thoroughly aware of these days, GAAP can be used to play with earnings to a disturbing extent even before you get to outright Enron/Worldom style fraud. If you read the whole NYT article, you can see that they are currently in a cash crunch, which is what will force the filing. Yes it might seem weird that a company could "produce" a profit up until the point it files for chapter 11, but it does happen (I think it used to be normal for this to happen with banks that failed). For that matter, they *aren't* profitable now. You write:

      The company's earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization are projected to be $6.5 million in 2002.

      First off, that isn't earnings, but EBITDA, which is wildly significant because their interest expense is absolutely huge. Further, the trends for future business here have to be strongly negative. I severely doubt, for example, that year-over-year ad revenue is up or will be up in the foreseeable future. I cannot believe that subscriptions to the flagship (PC Magazine) are going anywhere but down (unless they have expanded some of the "loss-leader" deals they used to offer).

      And, for that matter, I'm very skeptical about the breath-taking turnaround they suggest is going to happen after the pre-packaged chapter 11 filing. Note that they are pretty much *forced* to paint a rosy scenario here because they are trying to get their bondholders to accept equity in lieu of cash. For that matter, chapter 11 does give them some leverage here over the bondholders who already rejected a similar deal (again, this is clear from the NYT piece). When push comes to shove in bankruptcy court, I wouldn't be surprised to see monthly operating reports deep in the red if they stay there for long, and the bondholders (and any banks) are going to get heart pretty badly even if they take the equity. OK, so that's my opinion based on the expected current value of any enterprise purchased in April 2000.

      I have no current interest in the equity or debt of ZD or any of its partners or subsidiaries.

  • by Dark Paladin ( 116525 ) <.jhummel. .at. .johnhummel.net.> on Monday July 29, 2002 @08:21AM (#3971031) Homepage
    For the most part, I've become rather jaded - not with the computer/video gaming industry, but about the reporting. It's all pretty much the same - vapid, chauvenistic, and annoying.

    So if ZDNet is focusing on their gaming coverage, here's my own little wish list:
    • For the love of god, hire some more women. How many women are on the gamespot.com staff? I'm looking at today's Gamespotting [gamespot.com], and it's all XY chromosomed folks. No wonder games like DOA Vollyball [gamespot.com] are coming out - there isn't someone to stop that jiggle fest from going out of control. (Not that I don't like good looking girls running round, but if they made it fair and featured guys in speedos, I wouldn't feel like it's being marketed only to 14 year old masturbating teenagers who don't have a like).
    • Stop it with the positive previews. I have yet to see a preview of a game that says "You know, we're working with an early build of a game - and it sucks. I mean, you thought Daikatana was bad - this game takes the cake." I don't even read reviews anymore - I just check out the synopsys of a game, download the demo, and that's it, because I know I can't rely on what game journalists say about the game before its released. I know it's hard, especially when a game in beta might be better in final version. But if you only have something nice to say (when it isn't deserved), don't say anything at all.
    • Ziff Davis also owns gamers.com, Official US Playstation Magazine, etc, etc, etc. I almost hope they go under, mainly because a good chunk of the paper gaming magazines are owned by one company, and you can tell. They're all pretty much the same (much like there's no reason to go to zdnet.com if you've already scanned the headlines for cnet.net). Anyone remember the Gamefan magazine? Great rag, and I was hoping GameGo would take off, but with a near monopoly on gaming magazines, Ziff-Davis has made sure everything is covered in a macho bullshit shell.
    • No booth babe pictures. Ever. Again. Look, maybe it's because I get laid on a regular basis, but I don't feel the need for computer gaming news to feature silicon injected flesh peddlers. I want to know about the game. Is it fun. Is it entertaining. I was annoyed after visiting E3 to see the high level of insults to women depicted there, and even more so after checking out a gaming magazine to see they focused the first section to pictures of the girls. Stop it. Please.
    That's my little wish list, and I'm sure I'm forgetting other things.
    • I just check out the synopsys of a game, download the demo, and that's it, because I know I can't rely on what game journalists say about the game before its released.

      Amen. Game magazine / website "journalism" is below the level of the Weekly World News. I think I saw that Gamespot is starting to charge for downloads of demos now, so maybe they've caught on to this as well.

      Back before I had broadband, I used to subscribe to PC Gamer. I'd pitch the rag and try the stuff that looked interesting on the CD.

    • by yatest5 ( 455123 ) on Monday July 29, 2002 @08:33AM (#3971083) Homepage
      For the love of god, hire some more women. How many women are on the gamespot.com staff? I'm looking at today's Gamespotting [gamespot.com], and it's all XY chromosomed folks. No wonder games like DOA Vollyball [gamespot.com] are coming out - there isn't someone to stop that jiggle fest from going out of control. (Not that I don't like good looking girls running round, but if they made it fair and featured guys in speedos, I wouldn't feel like it's being marketed only to 14 year old masturbating teenagers who don't have a like).

      No booth babe pictures. Ever. Again. Look, maybe it's because I get laid on a regular basis, but I don't feel the need for computer gaming news to feature silicon injected flesh peddlers.

      This guy's chick is *so* watching him post over his shoulder...
    • One quick thing (Score:3, Informative)

      For the folks telling me "99% of all gamers are men, so we don't want girls in our club", according to the IDSA, 40% of all console game sales were to women.

      Guys, take down the "Girls not allowed" signs off the treehouse and lower the rope ladder, for pete's sake.
      • For the folks telling me "99% of all gamers are men, so we don't want girls in our club", according to the IDSA, 40% of all console game sales were to women.

        That doesn't mean much without giving it some context. 90% of the games I owned (until I graduated from H.S. and got a real job anyway) were purchased by my Mother or my Grandmother. Now how does that skew those statistics?

      • Hear, hear.

        E3 was pathetic. The few women in the gaming profession who weren't booth-bimbos seem to be surviving on a diet of low-grade mortification. Video games have the potential to be the defining medium for the 21st century, but only when they stop be exclusively marketed towards young men's most insipid fantasies

        I'm not someone who thinks that the numbers have to be equal, either - I, like Henry Jenkins of MIT, think that there are reasons why boys are more interested in video games than girls, the most important one being the loss of public space for boys' unsupervised play. Video games answer a call for a need that young (10 to 15 year old) boys have particularly strongly in the US. In the most literal sense, it's OK for adolescent males to have a 'treehouse' that's boys-only - girls do the same, and it's an important part of social development to have gendered playspaces. At that stage, I can understand the gap.

        However, at a place like E3 that fact is irrelevant. That the industry talks to itself with depictions of T&A is pathetic. It feels deeply unprofessional, and the attitude, I think, is stunting the potential of videogames. The average PS2 owner, for example, is 25 years old - the industry should be getting smarter.

        As far as Ziff-Davis goes, their gaming magazines are weak. The best general magazine for gaming I've ever read is Edge [edge-online.com], from the UK. No US magazine comes close to such intelligence, production values, actually useful reviews (yes, lots of pans - in fact, more pans than praise), and good, literary-quality writing.

    • Cheer! Here's one woman gamer cheering your comments.

      I quit EQ when they redesigned the boobs to be lethal weapons. I'm 33 years old, married, the mother of three kids, and buy WAY more games a year than your average 14 year old gamer. Why? Cause I have a job, and cash to buy them. I buy pretty much whatever catches my fancy. I don't have to save my paper route money, nor do I have to beg my parents for the money.

      Attracting new customers should be the goal of every new game. Instead of all those companies catering to the same, tired, cliched gamer, perhaps they should start looking at the gamers everyone forgets.. women. Oh, damn, you know, I forgot, someone already did that... The Sims. And wouldn't you know, its the best selling PC game... EVER.

      Catch a clue guys. We're here. We just don't talk to you all cause you are so damn RUDE. You treat us as if we aren't anything more than a pair of breasts and a pussy and that we're on this planet only to provide you with masturabatory material.

      Disclaimer: I do not mean all of you. I mean some of you who also replied to this thread. Shouldn't take much brainpower to figure out to whom I am referring.
      • by Anonymous Coward
        Hey, is it okay if I treat women as masturbatory material provided I let them treat me the same?

        (He says, anonymously, with girlfriend still asleep so that she'll never know.. Ahaha.)
      • What games do you buy? I'd imagine the Sims since you mentioned it. What else? And while we're at it, what games would you like to see more of? Any other gamer-type females feel free to respond as well. Call it research.
    • The problem is that breasts sell product, especially in the geek market.

      Case in point: a few months ago Dragon had the gall to put a scantily clad male on their cover. The next month the fan mail apparently was replaced by hate mail from homophobes who claimed they couldn't even bring themselves to buy that issue because of the cover. In subsequent months they got plenty of mail in support of that cover, but the fact remains that the ltest issue is dutifully decorated by a pair of Dark Elf females dressed for a night out at the local S+M club.

      My point is that they are selling to a particular market, and that market, right or wrong, as a deep-seated fascination with breasts. Gaming magazines focus on E3 booth babes for the same reason Sports Illustrated has a swimsuit issue; because it grabs the attention of their target audience and sell magazines.

      Personally, I agree with you. I would love to see the maturity level of the PC gaming community raised a few notches, but the sad fact is that the industry will continue to put out what sells. For the record, I know a lot more women who are interested in Sports Illustrated than [random PC Gaming mag], and I only know one woman who reads Dragon.

      I guess what it comes down to is you aren't their target market. You should let them know that by not buying their magazines.

    • In a word, Bravo!

      In a few more words...

      Back in the 'good days' of gamesdomain.com, there was a column called, "The Pink Aisle," discussing women in computer games. It was very insightful (and occasionally inciteful :-), but depressing to see how pathetically the gaming industry still toadies to (and helps establish/reinforce) adolescent fantasies.

      Personally, I don't have a lot of problems with women who want to take off their clothes for my entertainment, assuming they get paid and treated fairly for it. However, it doesn't belong in the computer gaming industry, it shouldn't be aimed at teenagers, and it certainly shouldn't be done as a projection of reality (which it currently is).

      If I want to see scantily clad women, I'll pick up Playboy, etc. If I want to see game info, I'd like to be able to pick up a game magazine.

      Game previews should be factual, rather than hypeful. Tell us what the game is going to be about and how it's going to work. Tell us about the tech behind it, if it's known. Don't waste breathless prose telling us about how it'll be the best game ever created!!! (again)

      On a side note, does ZD have anything to do with the current incarnation of Gamesdomain? They certainly stink like a ZD site these days.
    • And it was the first thing that came to mind when the words "Ziff-Davis" and "Gaming" were once again mentioned like they just were. They screwed the staff. Hard. Best all around coverage of Consoles and PC games. It was the end of an era.

      I agree with you on the sugar coated reviews. Like you said, sometimes it's painfully obvious what company pays the bills or who the magazine can't afford to piss off. And rich game fans out there who would like to produce an independent mag without whoring it out to a 3rd party income producer? THAT would be a mag to remember. "What? You gotta be kidding me?! This is Sony's worst effort to date!? It deserves to be sacrified on an alter dedicated to the gods of Shit and Flaming Anal Sores respectively!" Maybe not that rough, but you get the idea.

      Booth Babes? Lara Croft? Horny teenage guys = $$$? What!? I want telephone book thick Japanese gaming mags... That's all I want here... Please?
    • I completely agree with you. I own both paying subscription to GS and IGN and the booth babes pics were just an embarrassment. It's bad nuff E3 even had them in the first place, but to pander the pictures on the front page for the rest of the horny male teens, well...but, wait, it's about the games right? Sure..it's about the games. And articles in PlayBoy are good too.

      I've been playing games for 15 years now, and I have to say, the industry has become a lot more sexified (is that a word?). Before it was just a lot of side scrollers and a boy or a girl could be good at that finger-twitching. Now it's just "take your Sims and go to the corner, m'kay?" while the guys drool over polygonal boobs bouncing on the screen.

      Oh but there're the excuses. Let's see,
      "the industry is geared toward men"
      "more men can afford to get games so they buy more"
      "more men are programmers so they program what they want"
      "women don't like games!"
      "women don't understand games"
      "women think it's a waste of time (maybe pouring $$ down an industry that consistently abases women is a waste)"

      It's funny how some guys can recite them with religious fervor and believe in them like a zealot. That's the only way to believe the industry is right as it is now.
  • Accounting (Score:4, Funny)

    by clearcache ( 103054 ) on Monday July 29, 2002 @08:26AM (#3971051)
    Hey...at least they're being honest about their cash flow!!!
  • Jesse Berst (Score:2, Funny)

    by Un1v4c ( 226792 )
    "Hey Jesse, don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out!"

    I can only hope this guy gets the axe. Then again, I giggle at the thought of his Duke Nukem Forever review.
    • You do realize he's been gone since last year....

      http://www.zdnet.com/anchordesk/stories/story/0, 10 738,2670391,00.html
      • So, after being a lowbrow spammer (I got Berst Alerts unsolicited for a while) he became a highbrow spammer:

        So why am I leaving? Because I've started a new company called IZ Inc. -- a next-generation digital publishing firm that creates email newsletters and Web communities around affinity topics. This type of targeted email is an explosive market. Jupiter Research expects revenues to soar to $7.3 billion by 2005. I want to be part of that boom.

        I'm sure it's right on track to $7.5 billion!

  • I personally think thier problem started when they trashed C|Net and started mirroring all thier content.
  • Ziff-Davis in my mind still stands out for being the ones that bought, then folded, Creative Computing, which was the original very first computer magazine.

    To my mind, this is roughly equivalent to USA Today buying out, then folding, the New York Times.
  • I wrote about [punitiveart.com] the problem with PC Mag a few weeks back. Nice to see I'm not the only one who feels that way...
  • The end was obvious for PC Magazine when they started selling advertisements for hair plugs and sex-enhancing herbal supplements (check the marketplace section of their latest issue).

    This from a magazine that pulled the plug on advertisements for pr0n sites a few years back. With the pictures they're using now, what's the difference.

  • This is sad, and it has nothing to do with PC Magazine. It's sad because before many of Slashdot's readers were born, I was a preteen electronics geek and Popular Electronics -- published by Ziff-Davis since sometime in the fifties -- was my favorite magazine. In fact I almost got busted in junior high for reading it in class. Electronics class, no less.

    I subscribed to PC Magazine for over 10 years and its cousin, PC/Computing, for almost as long. I finally dropped PC/C after they changed their name and slant to a business emphasis that didn't interest me. PC Magazine followed soon after when I came to the realization that I was paying good money for a stack of paper that contained information I could get for free on the 'net.
  • by Sloppy ( 14984 ) on Monday July 29, 2002 @09:26AM (#3971404) Homepage Journal
    I guess this is mostly just another "me too."

    In the late 80s I actually read PC Magazine. I thought it was a half-decent way to keep abreast of things happening one particular platform -- "IBM PC Compatable" type machines. Of course, if you relied on it, you would end up with a very narrow and distorted view of Personal Computers.

    In the early 90s, it seemed to get progressively worse. It kept its focus on only one hardware platform (which is almost, though not quite, justifiable today, but ten years ago, no way), but also focused almost exclusively on a single OS vendor -- you can guess who.

    The last straw came in 1995 when they gave their "technical excellence" award for OSes, to Windows 95. Compared to some of the other things around at the time, such as OS/2 Warp, this was a complete joke. You can talk about market realities or whatever, but when it comes to pure technique, Windows 95 is to Warp, as a Model T is to a modern car.

    Up to then, I knew I was getting distorted information from them, but just how distorted it was, I guess I just hadn't fully realized it. I took a look around at some other ZD publications then, just to make sure I wasn't jumping to any unjustified conclusions, and then safely concluded: ZD was just Microsoft's PR arm. They were not journalists.

    I stopped reading anything published by Ziff-Davis. The words "Ziff-Davis" actually became a negative-value trademark, a badge for unusually poor quality. Worse than random noise. This is a company who can put goodwill on the liabilities side of their balance sheet.

    They could even have reformed in the last few years, and I wouldn't know. They established a such horrible reputation and it would take a miracle to bring them back. I can't imagine that anyone reads them anymore.

  • Didn't CNet buy ZD in 2000?

    http://slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=00/07/19/1131 25 3&mode=thread&tid=149

    Does this mean CNet is going belly-up?
  • about ZD's PC magazines is Penn Gillette's column in PC/Computing. It only ran for two years, it was dropped with no fanfare whatever (not even a mention in the Letters column) and he proudly billed it as the only non-computer column to appear in a computer magazine -- but he had a lot to say about privacy issues, communities and the Net, illusion and reality, and the like. His explanation of how public-key cryptography works is still the best I've ever seen. To this day I'm not sure whether that's because or in spite of the fact that he framed it around an account of him sending love letters to Uma Thurman that he didn't want anyone else to read.

    I may be in the minority but whatever it was they replaced him with -- I think it was some kind of lame top 10 list -- I didn't think it was nearly as good, useful or entertaining.
  • by T1girl ( 213375 ) on Monday July 29, 2002 @09:51AM (#3971578) Homepage
    Back in the last century, I used to love reading Interactive Week when I was working for a big networking company that was making tons of money, and so was Z-D. It was full of news, gossip and ads that were useful to my niche. I read and quoted from the online edition in my work several times a week, and my boss agreed to pay for a print subscription for me. But there was no apparent way to order and pay for a print subscription online. They wouln't sell you a subscription, but they would send it free - if only you filled out a lengthy survey of how much budget you controlled in a long list of categories. If you left out one, when you hit "submit," it erased everything, you got an error message and had to start all over again. You really had to want that magazine pretty badly to go through all that. My boss told me to just check off $50,000 for every category. I eventually started getting my magazines, but by then the tech bubble had burst, the magazine was barely thick enough to swat a fly with, and I had moved on to another sector, where my magazines nonetheless continued to follow me. So I don't see how they were making money on subscriptions, although they were probably told advertisers that they had a lot of powerful executives with big budgets reading their mag.

    You must be present to win.
  • by Dr. Wu ( 309239 )
    I think one of the root causes behind the decline, at least in terms of gaming magazines, is that they can't keep up with the instant-review, demos and walkthru's available on the internet.

    If you are a hardcore gamer, you've usually purchased, hacked, and beaten the game weeks before the review appears in a magazine. With the ability to access demos, previews, reviews, and walkthru's with just a few clicks (and usually avoiding having to wade through pages and pages of ads), I just don't see how the print medium can keep up.

    Dr. Wu
  • I read ZD's Stereo Review magazine for thirteen years before I ever heard of personal computers, so its impending bankruptcy seems especially poignant to me - even more so, the end of an era.

    However, "poignant" != "too bad, I'll miss them," by any means. Cranks (such as Dvorak and Berst) posing as journalists really soured my opinion of their latter-day efforts.
  • Too bad ZD is having tough times.

    Funny that CNet Community Manager blamed the lower use of ZDnet on Microsoft critics rather than the company violating the law.

    I know that is pure bunk. But, that is what he claimed. Check out my web site for the email from the CNet guy.

    I do not believe him for a second.
  • Gone for good... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by treczoks ( 64329 )
    Having the advantage of being non-US-based, I only know ZDs website. Any decent computer magazine (like the german c't magazine) would put ZDs "articles" in the advertising part only, if not directly in the bin.

    Well, seeing how Jesse Berst crawled far into BillGs ass it is not at all surprising that the odeur drove the customers away.

    Good Riddance! And (no) good look for Berst at the employment agency...
  • by jejones ( 115979 ) on Monday July 29, 2002 @10:20AM (#3971782) Journal
    I remember back when Ziff-Davis bought up many fine computer magazines (e.g. Creative Computing, Color Computer Magazine) only to destroy them, leaving a scorched earth landscape with essentially nothing but Ziff-Davis magazines and no coverage of anything save PClones. Computer Shopper was bought and then all the columnists writing on non-Intel systems told to go away...so as far as I'm concerned, die, Ziff-Davis, home of Intel and MS shills. I'll dance on your grave.
  • I was in my favorite magazine store (Hub Cigar, Edmonton AB -- it rocks) purchasing the latest Linuz Magazine and thought 'hey, I wonder of PC Mag is still publishing'. There wasn't a ZD rag on the racks.

  • Is their an opposite to f*ckedcompany.com? Like "backfromthebrink.com" or "wefiledchapter11-andalligot-was-this-tshirt.com". I have seen how many companies crash and burn. I want some feel good, back from the dead success stories.

    P.S. All of these mags go over the same thing every month...Ever wonder why they are dead?
  • I hope this means that windbag Jessie Burst is getting canned!

    ZD owns some really good properties, and they're aren't as biased as some other publications, but I'm sure the problem is the high cost of print publishing and the move toward internet sales. Something like Price Watch [pricewatch.com] must be killing Computer Shopper.

    Still, I suspect people are going to want to read computer magazines for a while. Like most businesses right now, they might just need to merge their way out of this mess. Don't you just love the business cycle?

  • The Securities and Exchange Commission maintains a big public FTP archive for programs that need to process SEC filings. The data there is supposed to be permanent. Once filed, a filing should never change. But Ziff-Davis's quarterly 10-Q filing filed February 14, 2001 is missing. This is very unusual. In two years of crunching on that data, I've never seen this happen before. (My Downside site maintains a MySQL index of all SEC filings, so I have a check on the SEC's index data.)

    The missing filing is

    http://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/1055131/000 0950130-01-000889.txt [sec.gov]

    returns a "file not found". But that file was indexed in the daily index file for Feburary 14, 2001,

    ftp://ftp.sec.gov/edgar/daily-index/2001/QTR1/comp any.20010214.idx [sec.gov]

    and thus should be present.

    If you try to find this filing via the SEC's search engine [sec.gov], it doesn't show up there, either.

    I don't like this. History has been erased. Unclear whether this a bug, or tampering.

  • ZD-Day (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Mulletproof ( 513805 ) on Monday July 29, 2002 @12:59PM (#3972835) Homepage Journal
    Speaking of ZD and gaming, I used to have this favorite gaming publication called "Gamefan". Two favorite gaming mags, actually; NextGen for in-depth coverage of the industry and Gamefan for the big picture. Life was good until ZD started doing something that would annoy most of us... Stopped paying the Gamefan Editors... They weren't fired or layed off. ZD just wasn't coming through with the money. About half the staff quit and formed Gamers Republic, which was short lived. The remaining staff was forced to shut down the site and the great mag eventially disappeared into oblivion. Given this and other incidents, you can see why I am oh so hopeful that ZD succeeds in their new gaming venture. Or not.
  • ZDNet has been such an extreme tabloid over the past few years, with poor reviews, basically saying all articles are good and sensationalistic flamebaiting of alernatingly Linux and MS in order to raise hits that not many people take them seriously anymore. The last article I read there was buy this regular commentator that they have (ZDNET calls them commtators so that no one is liable for what they say) Larry Seltzer, which was nothing but an warning that everybody who is happilly using NT4 server should swap over to Win2000 Server based on very flaky evidence. It was so bad that Microsoft themslves could have written the piece. Many people were upset about the article and it then dissappeared to the ZDNet archive because of his factual errors.
  • it would have to be - cause that's the only thing in ZD properties. oh sure they call them reviews or facts or editorials or whatnot but pretty much they're just takin it beotch style
  • TechTV was formerly ZDTV, which to me implies it is still owned by Ziff Davis.
    Does anybody know if this possible bankruptsy would have an impact on the TechTV channel?

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