Computerworld NZ, Reseller, PC World: It may not be all over yet

Fairfax’s decision to close the technology titles it licences from IDG Communications is sad but hardly comes as a surprise.

The Australian media giant never knew what to do with the publications. I know because I worked for IDG as the associate publisher of Reseller News when Fairfax Business Media acquired the titles in 2006.

At the time the business had strong sales and a healthy profit.

Despite a new competitor, Reseller News had a stellar year. We shot past targets and IDG paid me a full bonus.

Within a year the business was in trouble.

In 2008 control moved from Sydney-based Fairfax Business Media to Fairfax New Zealand. By then I was no longer with the company.

For me it is all water under the bridge. However, I feel for the people who may have lost their jobs. I know how painful it is.

Fairfax says it is closing three titles. It plans to keep a fourth one – CIO magazine.

CIO is valuable because of the lucrative, annual CIO Summit. Fairfax wants to hang on to the title and the summit revenue.

While this appears to make sense, it doesn’t for two reasons.

First, CIO magazine and the Summit don’t exist in a vacuum. CIO needs its connection to the other titles to be viable. It’s an awful word, but there really are synergies between technology publications. CIO magazine and the Summit will struggle to thrive without the other titles.

And anyway, tech publishing moves in cycles. CIO may be profitable today, but it hasn’t always been. All of the other titles have had their day in the sun.

The second reason Fairfax’s decision to keep CIO doesn’t make sense is that it devalues the other titles in the group. The whole is worth more than the sum of parts.

Fairfax may not want them, but other publishers may.

Fairfax and IDG could strike a better deal with these parties if CIO was part of the offer.

Perhaps that wouldn’t save every job. It does mean some those people facing redundancy would have somewhere to go. Given the need to pay redundant workers and the likely reduced future return from CIO and the Summit, Fairfax is putting those employee’s livelihoods on the block for what, ultimately, doesn’t add up to much money.

Of course IDG gets a say in what happens to the titles. Fairfax is breaking a contract, it’s possible IDG can find another licensee if the four titles can move as a block. I suspect it will at least put this idea on the table in any negotiation.

So, it’s possible it isn’t game over for these titles. Not yet.