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DDJ vs. Backyard Poultry

Eric Sink has a post talking about the sad state of developer publishing, specifically discussing the declining readership of the venerable developer magazine Dr. Dobb’s Journal, as compared to that mainstay of American newsstands Backyard Poultry.

After reading the article and the replies, I just had to throw in my two cents about magazine publishing and why “1% of the US population are software developers, so there should be a huge market for development magazines.”

It’s a significant mistake to think that the reader is the target and that the magazine is the product.

It is actually the aggregate readership that is the product, and the advertisers who are the target. That is, unless the magazine takes no advertising and is entirely supported by its subscribers.

This was driven home to me recently when I bought the recent “eInk Flashing Cover” issue of Esquire. I had never read Esquire before, so in addition to checking out the cool hardware on the cover, I started trying to read it. It was way more full of ads than Wired ever was — even in the days when Suck famously disassembled Wired 3.09 to remove the ads.

Furthermore, its advertisers were all very high-end. Thus I wasn’t that surprised when I saw that the price on the subscription card for a year of Esquire was well under $1/issue.

So if Dr. Dobb’s Journal is circling the drain, it’s not the current readership that’s to be blamed, or the Internet. It’s the lack of advertisers interested in reaching that readership, or the magazine’s ability to reach a readership that is interesting to a better-paying tier of advertisers.

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