Dr. Dobb's: Computer Experts, but Revenue Model Noobs

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The word is out. The popular Dr. Dobb's Journal will be sunsetted by the end of this year. The magazine was praised by readers for its 38-year run, but all good things must come to an end.

So, how did such a beloved stalwart lose its readers? Was it a loss of focus? A reduction in quality? A failure to keep up with modern technology? No! In fact, the magazine continues to grow more popular by the year. Readership is up a full 28% from three years ago and is staying strong at 10.3 million page views per year - not bad for a niche technical journal!

The problem was not one of interest but of revenue models. The firm's staff continued to rely on an ad-based subscription model at a time when advertisers were willing to spend less on ads, and the very audience they were targeting was the group most likely to install ad-blocking software and be immune to advertising in the first place.

Doctor Dobbs
Image courtesy of Wikipedia

By the Editor in Chief's own admission, the magazine's staff had at least eighteen months to explore other revenue models and seek out new income streams. Based upon the farewell message, they chose to double down on their existing strategy - too afraid to change what had worked so well for years.

What would I have suggested? When a problem arises, skilled businessmen will realize that they have two possible choices.

  1. Accept the problem and do nothing
  2. Evaluate the situation and select a new course of action

Sometimes the first option works, but often it is tantamount to deciding to go down with one's ship - a noble effort that ultimately ends poorly for both the captain and the ship.

The businessmen should have looked to other revenue models - and there are many. In fact, I've listed 13 of them in my latest ebook The Revenue Model Handbook. Sign up for my newsletter and you can get your very own copy! Or, contact me for a consult!