Ziff Davis To Close Print PCMag, Focus On Online; Still Looking For Options For Gaming Division

imageZiff Davis, the tech/gaming media company that recently exited Chapter 11 bankruptcy, is now taking the brave but inevitable step of closing down the print version of PCMag to focus its energy on its growing PCMag online network of sites, led by flagship PCmag.com. The magazine, which was started in 1982, has a storied history, but its print base eroded over the years as its core brand of journalism — news you can use while shopping for computers — moved online. It cut back from bi-weekly to monthly earlier this year. PCMag, which literally invented the idea of comparative hardware and software reviews, at one time during the ’80s averaged about 400 pages an issue, with some issues breaking the 500- and even the 600-page marks, according to this Wikipedia history.

The last issue will be dated January 2009; the closure will claim the jobs of about seven employees, all from the print production side. None of the editorial employees, who are now writing for the online sites anyway, will be affected. The site will still be called PCMag (with mag remaining in the name), but the online network — which has sites such as ExtremeTech, Gearlog, Appscout, Smart Device Central, GoodCleanTech, DL.TV, Cranky Geeks, and PCMagCast — will now be called PCMag Digital Network, with PCMag.com as its lead property. The company has about 200 employees, and the PCMag division has about 140 employees.

I spoke in detail today with Jason Young, the CEO of Ziff Davis, about this move, the online focus, and the status of the company’s more-troubled gaming division.

What he said after the jump

On the online side, he wouldn’t disclose the revenues for the PCMag brand, but said it was in “tens and tens of millions” of dollars. He said the revenues on the online side have grown an average of 42 percent yearly since 2001; digital is about 70 percent of the revenues for the PCMag brand, and overall is profitable. He said that despite the economic situation, the PCMag brand revenues grew about 18 percent in Q308, and thinks that it will hold up despite advertising downturn due to the power of the brand. Of course competition is heavy for those shrinking ad dollars, from everyone including other established brands like CNET, to newer ones like Engadget and others.

As for the status of its gaming group, which consists of its 1Up online brand and other gaming sites and EGM print magazine (the only print book left within Ziff Davis), Young said it is considering strategic options for the division. Same is true for its now shuttered DigitalLife consumer tech expo event. The company has tried to sell the gaming division before as well but was not able to find the right buyer then, our sources say.

Update: PCMag will continue to be published as an electronic/digital edition, as editor Lance Ulanoff explains here.

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