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Tuesday, December 07, 2004

The Bard Of Boston

Yes he’s at it again. Pat Kenealy, CEO of IDG, shocked organisers at last week’s Digital Magazine Forum with a “warts’n all” appraisal of the progress (or lack of it) of digital magazines.

They can’t say they weren’t warned – three months ago he laid into the major search engines at a similar conference – and is rapidly acquiring a reputation for er “speaking his mind”.

The Register has some good coverage of what he had to say, but in their analysis they miss a fundamental point.

Namely, that Kenealy’s comments were aimed squarely at competitors ; and Ziff Davis in particular.

"The technology is being over-used by a few”, he opined, no doubt aware that his audience included several Ziff staffers and of course top brass from Zinio.

IDG’s relationship with Zinio is interesting, given that so many of its (Zinio’s) top management are ex- Ziff. And Kenealy hasn’t been slow in the past to point this out –for instance this from Mediapost…

“Kenealy, whose company publishes IT-professional-targeted titles like
Computerworld and Macworld, has been telling anyone who will listen that rival
publisher Ziff Davis is misleadingly pumping up its rate base for PC Magazine by
giving away free digital subscriptions. Kenealy even claims that Ziff Davis is
taking advantage of a cozy relationship with former employees to facilitate the

IDG's gripe is that Ziff Davis is using sponsored or partner-paid
subscriptions, a common, though often criticized practice in the print world, to
provide consumers free subscriptions as part of larger purchases or in exchange
for personal data. Kenealy has a problem with Ziff's giving away digital
subscriptions in this manner because of they way they are tracked. “

Still, there is one area of his speech that was spot on, when he was talking about standards, and in particular the danger to the industry if there wasn’t some agreement.
He compared the fledgling digital magazine sector to the state of the laser printer market some years ago.

I’d go further – the industry is in some ways more like the automotive market, if every make of car ran on different types of petrol. Vendors need to sit down and agree some basic standards for auditing, advertising sizes etc, or the whole thing runs the risk of presenting as united a front as the current DVD debacle.

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