The grass is always greener. (Reminiscence - software, stores and magazines) Wayne Green.
David, congratulations on your ten years with Creative Computing! Quite a feat building it to one of the largest magazines in the microcomputer field, I'd say. And mercy, it's nine years since I started Byte and eight since Microcomputing. We've sure seen exciting changes, eh?
Say, do you remember the morning we had breakfast together at the Disneyland NCC, both thinking we were at the Pertec breakfast, only to find it was next door. So we went there and had a second, better breakfast? I don't think we ever found out who the host for our first breakfast was. We've eaten together many, many times at press parties, both of us being consumate freeloaders.
We've watched an industry start from scratch--from that single MITS Altair microcomputer kit (which didn't actually work)--and blossom into a multi-billion dollar giant. When one remembers that first year (1975) with sales of only $5 million, one can appreciate that the industry has been growing at an average rate of over 250% per year. This remarkable growth has generated the most new millionaires since our government started paying farmers for not planting crops.
One of the seldom appreciated benefits of microcomputer magazines such as Creative Computing is that they make it possible for entreprenuers to start small firms which then often often grow into substantial businesses. Indeed, without magazines the microcomputers industry would have had a much more difficult time getting started.
To give you an idea of the power of this growth, I started a magazine specifically for TRS-80 computer owners way back in 1980. It grew from 132 to over 400 pages that year--and 600 pages a year later. Reader polls showed that this magazine was generating $30 million per month in mail order sales for the advertisers, and I don't think that was unusual in the field. That may help explain to newcomers why there are so many computer magazines. They help sell products, so they are needed.
Thousands of entrepreneurs responded by developing software, accessories, and information products for micros, and they flourished. Hundreds upon hundreds became millionaires. Some were able to cope with instant success; others were not. Thus we have seen the chaps who started Apple end up with enormous fortunes and Osborne with disappointment. The Industry is still Growing
Our industry is still growing--certainly no slower than it has--and the opportunities for entrepreneurs are no fewer than they were eight years ago. Developing and marketing a product for one of the lower cost systems, where the computer is sold only via mass merchandising stores such as K-Mart, is a good way to go. Little in software or accessories is available through these mass outlets, so the computer owners have little choice but to subscribe to a magazine dedicated to their system and shop the mail order ads. Selling this way is like shooting fish in a rain barrel for entrepreneurs.
It is fun for us publishers to try to second guess the market with our magazines. Will the Macintosh make it big, carrying its dedicated magazines on to success as small firms fill its pages with ads for add-on products? Or will it be the PCjr? The Sinclair QL? Will our American schools be as kind to the BBC as the English were? We publishers look 'em over and then roll the dice with a new magazine. But we enjoy every minute of it, no matter how frustrating, right David?
Life has been made a tad easier for us publishers since the computer firms figured out that a new computer system really doesn't stand a prayer any more unless there is at least one dedicated independent magazine for its users. More Magazines?
But how long can the computer industry continue to grow at such a pace and how many more magazines can there be? Well, with only a small percentage of businesses yet using computers and a tiny percentage of our kids using them in school, we have a long, long way to go. Add to that the potential home uses, and I see no slacking in the over 250% growth for some years.
Different computers and different user needs are going to dictate the need for more information sources--magazines. I have a list of at least ten new magazines I think are needed to help the field keep growing, and I'm sure you have a similar or even longer one, so I expect we'll see more, not fewer, magazines.
It's sad, in a way, that what started out as a great hobby for a few fanatics has grown up so soon to be dominated by a few billion-dollar firms. It was both eons ago--and just yesterday--that a bunch of T-shirted hobbyists gathered in Atlantic City for the first ever microcomputer show in 1976. That's where Steve Jobs rented a small table to show his Apple I and got twenty orders, starting him on his way to stardom.
The T-shirts are long gone. Now we see three-piece suits and IBM stripes at the show. No more jeans and frizzy hair. No more card tables show exhibits with handmade paper signs. It's big money these days, with show exhibits that can cost over $100,000. At Atlantic City I sold more than 1000 subscriptions to Kilobaud Microcomputing using a simple $35 sign in a single booth. Could anything like that happen today? Probably not.
Even you and I have had to bow to the pressure of big money, selling our magazine empirettes to larger publishers in order to keep from being overwhelmed. We have survived--and well. You seem to be keeping as busy as ever. I'm involved with starting a new kind of college to teach a combination of business and computers, a publishing school, a chain of computer software stores, a software protection system, and so on. It keeps me hopping around and having a good time.
Where will it be by 1994, David? Where will we be? Am I invited to write a 20-year celebration piece for Creative Computing?
Named Works: Byte (Periodical) - History