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What the Muses Deign: Service to the community

Porruka, porruka@macedition.com, April 12, 2002

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When you look around the Web – not just the “Mac Web,” but all the sites you visit regularly – do you find that the sites provide a service that you find useful? Do you simply go to these sites out of habit? What draws you to them? It’s an important question to ask these days; not just for you, the readers, but for folks like us, the publishers and purveyors of sites like MacEdition.

The Scarlet Letter

No, not ‘A’ for adultery. This is all about another ‘A’, advertising. Why red? Well, have you seen the discussions of different site financials lately? I’m not talking about the sites that really are some basement attempt at leaflet distribution. Real, honest sites that want to do the community a service are taking it on the chin in the old balance sheet. Ad-only support isn’t enough anymore, and to be honest, it probably never was really enough, not for the players that wanted to be around a long time. Sure, the volumes hid that fact for a while, but here we are. A business plan that can’t weather downturns isn’t much of a plan. Sites are now trying to get fiscal Visine by offering a variety of subscription options and other means. For the Web as a whole, this approach isn’t working too well. Will it work in the Mac community?

Value vs. cost

It’s important for the readers to remember that many of these sites (ours included) are not free to run. When a site decides to charge for one or more features, it’s rarely out of blind greed. At the same time, sites have to recognize that the Web has become accustomed to a different set of rules, and it will be a long time before those rules trend back to pre-dot-com sensibilities, if they ever do. The Web was supposed to bring economies to businesses that previously were unheard of, and in many cases, that has happened. If MacEdition had to put out a periodic print version as our sole method of delivery, the costs would be significantly higher and we might not be publishing at all. The same could be said for many of these other sites, complete with in-depth archives and detailed databases of information.

What would you as a reader pay to get that? Apparently not much. That tells me that we in the Web community (and the Mac Web community) have not yet hit the level of perceived “value” to Web surfers. Our content is worth zero currently because that’s what readers pay to get it. This is both an unfortunate side effect of the dot-com crazies and also a significant challenge to building a stable, long-term business. Perhaps the readers of the various rags on the Web don’t really care if their favorite site goes away; there are always more. If that’s true, then we as publishers are failing in yet another way: we’re not providing compelling enough content, features and services.

Reflections of the past, present, future

Here at MacEdition, we’re committed to bringing to our readers the best commentary, analysis, news, features and services we can. In order to do that, some upcoming features and services will have fees attached to them. There may be cases where those who subscribe will get early access to information or extra goodies. Some of the standalone services may require a small payment. The “free” MacEdition will still very much be here and still continue to be improved. After all, this is the vehicle by which you, our readers, decide whether to trust and try our other offerings.

MacEdition is approaching its second anniversary as a live site. We have great new things coming down the pike. In addition, we want to hear what you think is missing; what features, services, or content do you need? Let’s leap into the third year (and beyond) together, in a way that will ensure we provide a great service to the Mac community for many years to come.

—porruka
Editor-in-Chief, MacEdition

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