May 2, 2007 7:00 PM PDT

PC World editor resigns over apparent ad pressure

PC World editor resigns over apparent ad pressure
Award-winning Editor-in-Chief Harry McCracken of PC World resigned Tuesday over disagreements with the magazine's publisher regarding stories critical of advertisers, according to sources.

McCracken, reached Wednesday evening, confirmed that he resigned after 12 years at the magazine and 16 years at publisher International Data Group, over disagreements with management. He declined to comment on the nature of those disagreements.

But three sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told CNET News.com that McCracken informed staffers in an afternoon meeting Wednesday that he decided to resign because Colin Crawford, senior vice president, online, at IDG Communications, was pressuring him to avoid stories that were critical of major advertisers.

Wired News reported Wednesday evening that McCracken quit after Crawford killed a draft story titled "Ten Things We Hate About Apple."

An IDG representative confirmed McCracken resigned, but said he was unable to comment on personnel matters. In an e-mail to News.com, Crawford denied that advertiser pressure played any part in McCracken's resignation.

PC World is best known for its product reviews and how-to expertise. The magazine has won numerous awards over the years for its coverage of the PC industry and technology in general, including six prizes--such as Best Computer/Consumer Magazine--just awarded last week at the Maggie awards, run by the Western Publications Association.

"I spent 12 years at PC World; it's been incredibly good to me," McCracken said. He said he will still have some sort of writing relationship with the organization.

A source at PC World who wished to remain anonymous praised McCracken's decision.

"It saddens us all that Harry, a PC World institution, decided to leave," the source said. "But dammit, we're proud of him for doing it."

PC World is published by IDG, a venerable trade publishing organization that has been covering the technology industry since 1964. The monthly magazine reaches 4.3 million "purchase influencers," and PCWorld.com has 6.8 million unique visitors per month, according to a Wednesday press release touting the Maggies winners.

IDG also publishes well-known trade magazines and Web sites about the computer industry such as Computerworld, Network World, and InfoWorld, which recently shuttered its print publication and focused solely on its Web site. IDG was founded by Patrick McGovern and is privately held.

Crawford has been with IDG since 1994, according to his blog, when he became CEO of Macworld. He ran Macworld until 2003, when he became vice president of business development within IDG's corporate management structure, before assuming his current role.

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66 comments

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Not surprising
Didn't that 10 things article make it eventually? Or was it done
by someone else?

There is no doubt that marketing people try to pressure editors
to be easy on advertisers who provide significant income.
Especially now as magazines feel pressure from websites.

If all editors reported all attempts to pressure them, it would
stop. Advertisers are afraid of being exposed for pressuring
news organizations to slant news. Cockroaches always scatter
when the light is turned on.

In Atlanta some big car dealership pulled all of their ads from
the Atlanta Journal back in the 80s because they did an article
on dishonest car delears.

A newspaper I worked for killed an article in a special section
once. The article was on how to buy a used car.

It happens all the time. And any editor worth his/her salt will
resist. Publishers need to keep their fingers out of the editorial
content if they can't keep the separation between editorial and
advertising. Because they kill the goose that lays the golden egg
the minute readers realize that the stories are not independent
of such advertisers pressure.

I'm going to cancel all of my email subscriptions to IDG
publications. And I'm going to tell them why.
Posted by ewelch (767 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Me too
"'I'm going to cancel all of my email subscriptions to IDG
publications. And I'm going to tell them why."

And I suggest that, if you're offended by what was done, you do so
too.
I hope that this story gains traction, and that enough people take
action so that it makes a difference.
Posted by GGGlen (491 comments )
Link Flag
Not knowing the article was against Apple, no
I agree with you, but you are generalizing the fact that someone stopped someone else from publishing an article that happened to not praise Apple like what seems to be required nowadays with any article.
You say advertisers are afraid of being exposed for pressuring news organizations to slant news: not Apple, because they know their blind followers will always refuse anything that goes against Apple, no matter how obvious and true it is (just read this TalkBack section to see that).
Posted by Fil0403 (1303 comments )
Link Flag
It is actually Computerworld
and not ComputerWorld.

I know it doesn't make sense, but there you are.
Posted by davebarnes (40 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Shocking, Just Shocking
It is absolutely shocking to hear that publishers influence reporters' stories to make a quick buck. But you know, I don't buy a product until I first read what other consumers have to say about it. And if I don't like a product, I make sure to ell others about my bad experience. I frequently find that technology publications just do not do enough in-depth testing to discover what shortcuts the vendors took that come back to bite the consumer. More and more these days, products are under-engineered.
Posted by Stating (869 comments )
Reply Link Flag
IT IS NOT THAT SHOCKING. IDG HAS BEEN DOING BIASED REPORTING TO DAMAGE WHOEVER THEY LIKE SINCE OVER 10 YEARS AGO. THEY USED ALL SORTS OF UNETHICAL TRICKS - BREACH OF RIGHTFUL PRIVACY, CONFIDENTIALITY, HARASSMENT OF TECH COMPANY STAFF.... THEIR PUBLICATION IS BASICALLY A PIECE OF INTELLECTUAL TRASH. IMAGINE THEY ENGINEER SOME 'BAD NEWS'? LIKE MAKING UP FALSE AND BASELESS ACCUSATIONS TO BORROW THE POLICE TO QUESTION YOU, THEN REPORT THE INCIDENT AS IF IT IS REAL CRIME? OR JUST TARGET PEOPLE USING UNDERHANDED WAYS, THINKING THEY DONT LEAVE EASY EVIDENCE OR PROOF AND CAN GET AWAY WITH IT?
Posted by plumtart (2 comments )
Link Flag
Re: Not suprising
You are setting a great example in which I will follow, and recomend everyone else to do too.

Corruption will not stop until someone some where says enough is enough. It only takes one person to get things going.

Thank you for your post
Posted by the1kingarthur (47 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Cnet editors.
Well he has integrity. I like seeing that in a tech writer.
But what's he going to do next? Print is slipping to second place.

But in contrast to this story...

Would that mean that most CNET Editors are "yes-Men"?
They always write favourable reviews for their advertisers.

I suppose its a Catch-22. You need the dollars to run the
business. In the end, I guess the only one who loses are the
readers.
Posted by ServedUp (413 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Grow up
Just because you disagree with what is written on this site, doesn't mean CNET is bowing to these companies.

Just one look at their critical(sometimes over critical) product reviews will convince you that no favortism is exhibited.

People have different opinions, especially when it comes to technology, and to accuse someone of this, when you disagree with their position is just a sign of insecurity and immaturity.

Grow up or move on to a site that shares your myopic view of the world.
Posted by adlyb1 (123 comments )
Link Flag
Your wrong about print
I think you are wrong about print slipping to second.

I think it is in a transitional phase in which the tech isn't there yet. For example, I read PC World in digital form (using Zinio) and I love reading it in digital form. I am not a big fan of paper, I only use paper at work because I don't have two monitors at my desk (how inefficient).

But I love the layout of print, magazine and newspaper layouts have been improved upon for centuries and are great. I prefer the layouts over websites.

The problem is, the digital format ties me to my PC. What is needed is a good implementation of digital ink. The Sony reader is a good Alpha product but it is no where near what is needed.

As digital ink products evolve I think you will see a major print transition from actual paper to electronic paper.
Posted by hybris06 (66 comments )
Link Flag
You're wrong about print
I think you are wrong about print slipping to second.

I think it is in a transitional phase in which the tech isn't there yet. For example, I read PC World in digital form (using Zinio) and I love reading it in digital form. I am not a big fan of paper, I only use paper at work because I don't have two monitors at my desk (how inefficient).

But I love the layout of print, magazine and newspaper layouts have been improved upon for centuries and are great. I prefer the layouts over websites.

The problem is, the digital format ties me to my PC. What is needed is a good implementation of digital ink. The Sony reader is a good Alpha product but it is no where near what is needed.

As digital ink products evolve I think you will see a major print transition from actual paper to electronic paper.
Posted by hybris06 (66 comments )
Link Flag
We Support First Because It Gives Value
Although I am not a subscriber to PC World, I do enjoy the read whenever I can get my hands on it, usually at the airports.

Anyway, it does a great job and its reviews are really top notch. A publication can only be successful only if the readers find value in the things he/she reads.

However, once the product in question is bad and the story is edited to be more 'acceptable' to the advertisers then the readers will be at the losing end. On the other hand, some writers may have uncalled prejudices against a particular brand or product and may reflect in their writing.

We need a better review method. One that is in used now is the users' review which is good. But would it be better if reviewers from other departments write their thoughts too? So at least there are two views to have an average gauge.

My 2 cents worth.

Wilson
Posted by wilswong (22 comments )
Reply Link Flag
A line has been crossed
A large portion of computer related sites on the web are nothing more than well disguised ads, so it is critical that the mainstream groups (like IDG, Cnet, ZDnet, etc.) maintain their editorial integrity.
If this story is true then I will indeed avoid IDG publications going forward.
Posted by adlyb1 (123 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Good behavior
Its good to see such an example of integrity. If George Tenet or
somebody else with his stature in the Administration had behaved
similarly earlier, certain current events might well have had a better
outcome.
Posted by billmosby (536 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Good! I hope he takes his entire staff with him.
In the last year or two MacWorld and PC World have become
sensationalist headline grabbing hypocrites.
After being a subscriber for over 6 years I have let my subscription
lapse, and with good cause.
With tabloid headlines like ...iPod killer..., iPhone killer..., and 10
reasons you should hate..., many IDG publications have become a
techno-geek National Enquirer.
There needs to be an entire house cleaning of all IDG publications
staff.
Posted by ibeetle (259 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Your Reputation is All You've Got
I'm surprised PC World's powers-that-be don't realize your reputation is all you've got. Kudos to McCracken for taking this principled stand.

In an effort to chase ad dollars Crawford does not serve its readers by sucking up to advertisers. This is what happens when you put an advertiser's advocate in charge of editorial and tell the journalist to check their ethics at the door.
Posted by skippy.buckwalter (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
The evils of marketing
Unforntunately media relies more on advertising than consumers to
stay in business. This is deffinately a conflict!
I see this in automobile magazines too. The most open writing is in
freelance writing were the author can express his or her thoughts.
Commercial media is controlled by advertisers.
Posted by jesmac418 (35 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Income source for magazines
Compare the aproximate word counts of 2600 with that of a magazine that accepts advertising, and divide by price of each.
Posted by Phillep_H (497 comments )
Link Flag
Biased Reporting
So basically what this means is that PC WORLD will not be engaging in objective reviews of computer products (hardware or software). PC WORLD will be transformed into a glossy advertising brochure. This is a sad day.
Posted by hfg1955 (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
PC World isn't alone
Look, Ziff Davis, who I believe either owns or is owned by cnet, got called out in this blog post over those darned intellitext ads (<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://paulconley.blogspot.com/2007/05/ziff-davis-crosses-ethics-line-again.html" target="_newWindow">http://paulconley.blogspot.com/2007/05/ziff-davis-crosses-ethics-line-again.html</a>)

As more and more media companies struggle to pay the bills, you're going to see more and more accomodations made to protect the revenue rather than print the truth.

I worked in TV news for more than a dozen years and cannot tell you how many times our sales department would dictate news coverage for the day.

It's not new and it's not all that surprising and maybe that's the sad part.
Posted by jachamp (84 comments )
Reply Link Flag
CNET owns ZDNet, not Ziff-Davis
Just for clarification, Ziff-Davis is a completely separate company. But CNET Networks does own ZDNet.com.
Posted by Tom Krazit (436 comments )
Link Flag
Exactly what I though
Looks like greed has once again ruined a good magazine's creditility. More CPU magazine for me please :)
Posted by dnev6784 (6 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I doubt it happened the way it's being presented
I sincerely doubt that Colin wanted to kill the Mac piece in deferece to Apple. It's more likely that he told PC World editors that they couldn't just publish a snarky, unoriginal attack on Steve Jobs and Apple without some real meat on the bone in the article. And I'd bet the same is true for his general directive to PC World writers about their reviews. It's more likely that he told them that they are reporters and not columnists and that they can't take potshots at vendors but need to base their criticisms on facts and data. Taking potshots at someone does not mean you are more objective.

Jason Hiner
TechRepublic
Posted by jason.hiner (12 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Maybe
I haven't subscribed to PC World in a while, but I'd swear they had opinion pieces in it. Furthermore, it's EXTREMELY questionable when editorial content is censored because the topic is an advertiser. Tech publications have long had a problem with the perception that reviews are less critical of advertisers (doesn't matter if it is true or not). If this is indeed why he left, it only gives more ammunition to critics and frankly does nothing but tarnish PC World (which was hands down my favorite PC mag in the 90's).

Frankly, even if it was what you say, is it any different than Cnet/ZD preventing Dvorak from writing something critical of Dell, MS or Intel?

I hope he left for some other reason. There's simply no defense if the publisher was killing content to appease an advertiser.
Posted by notgonnatellya (65 comments )
Link Flag
I too doubt it.
I had to plow through nineteen comments before finally reaching a comment that makes some sense.

CNET News.com is to blame in part. It writes stories of this type, including rumors authored by unknown sources, presumably because it knows such a story will generate lots of comments. Lots of comments is what we have and only yours takes a realistic view of what may or may not have happened.

The fact is we have no idea why the man left the mag. The mag is and always has been PC-oriented and Apple bashing is hardly new to it. If the killed story was another of that type, it is about time the publisher clamped down. Your comment is to the point; reporters are not columnists and should stick to the facts. Unfortunately, they too often do not. Instead of reporting, we get opinion pieces reflecting the biases of the reporter. Equally unfortunately, publishers also all too often allow it because it draws readers.

I have been arguing for years that the PC-oriented publishing world barely qualifies as journalism. It is more like trade publications with the built-in biases you would expect from such publications. Maybe, just maybe, what this story is really all about it that this publisher is trying to upgrade its mag to at least something that resembles journalism. Would that CNET News.com itself would do the same.
Posted by gmcaloon--2008 (72 comments )
Link Flag
Re: I doubt it happened the way it's being presented
You sound like an editor with first-hand experience to kowtowing to CEO's, advertisers, and editors that check their ethics at the door.
Posted by skippy.buckwalter (3 comments )
Link Flag
Surprise.......Surprise
This sort of biased opinions has been going on for years...in most trade journals...not just the computer market. Com'on people..pull your heads out!!
It's a real shame that we have to deal with issues such as this. Let common sense prevail.
If you don't like it, just don't subscribe or read these biased articles. Live free or die.
Posted by buckster10 (6 comments )
Reply Link Flag
HAH!!
Why dont you take your own prescription...

So it is not news to you to have this confirmed, so be sure and spoil it for others by pretending you are wise and that everyone else is critical of those that have remain unsure or unaware.

It appears you would rather have a world full of deceit and lies and issues obscured in the trade journals and all businesses for that matter or maybe you are unable to feel empowered to try and do something about it.

Cheers to all dead wod may it burn to provide us warmth
Posted by Dragon Forge (96 comments )
Link Flag
IDG take warning.
Pop Mech used to be an influential and important magazine, then started going soft on the auto manufacturers back about 1965 or so, slanting stories, not telling the truth any more. It's core readers dropped the magazine.

That nearly killed the magazine, and that was before people had the internet to communicate through.

PM has started regaining some ground recently, but it should never have lost that ground to start with.
Posted by Phillep_H (497 comments )
Reply Link Flag
So Take IDG Articles With A Grain Of Salt....
If a writer is inhibited by his editor or company from writing articles about a product or company because they advertise with IDG then nobody can take that publication seriously.
So now IDG is just lip-service for their advertisers, so in essence we are just reading a catalog. I don't have time for that.
You have lost credibility with your readers and I can only hope that translates into less readers and less advertising revenue.

IDG, You have made a grave mistake.
Posted by fred dunn (793 comments )
Reply Link Flag
PC World editor resigns over apparent ad pressure
The same day I read this article, "PC World" sent me a subscription renewal notice. I will be returning it to them with a note stating that I will *not* be renewing it because I can no longer trust their editorial content isn't just a shill for their advertisers. Shame on IDG, but bravo to Harry McCracken for having integrity. He has big brass ones.
Posted by siriusproductions (54 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Time to clean up
I stopped buying ziffdavis and idg publications years ago for exactly these reasons, and duel on various tech sites with the poodlefakers and webhoes that make the most of their living by pumping bs into the market place or at least obscuring the facts.

E.g. right now there is a huge wave of hype concerning sharepoint 2007 with web postioners working frantically to obscure the facts from the light of day.

Remember just because there is a little criticism leveled at a product it does not mean the review is either fair or objective.
Posted by Dragon Forge (96 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Big Surprise (He used ... sarcasm.)
It really isn't a surprise. MacWorld has Jobs' brownness all over
their noses. Steve has them all scared of him. I like and use
Apple's products but I would not want Apple ruling the world.
Posted by ChasmoeBrown (31 comments )
Reply Link Flag
So, what else is new?
Any media company that depends on ad dollars (including CNET) cannot be truly objective. Have you noticed some awful reviews put out by CNET that favors sponsor's products?
Posted by oxtail01 (308 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Nothing New ...
I've run into this before, beginning over 20 years ago when a major computer magazine asked me to add negatives to a software review because the publisher had cancelled some of its advertising. (For details, see my posts on this subject at <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://mikebanks.blogspot.com" target="_newWindow">http://mikebanks.blogspot.com</a> .)

If advertising "partners" are protected against negative reviews, or non-advertisers are slammed, it begins to look like payola. As in, "Pay us [advertise] and we'll sing your product's praises; don't pay and we'll bury it."
--Michael A. Banks
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.michaelabanks.com" target="_newWindow">http://www.michaelabanks.com</a>
Posted by Oxfordmike (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Good Luck Harry
This will obviously affect my choice of renewal options. The reason that I liked PC World was its editorial independence and willingness to call piece of junk a piece of junk. I generally get most of my information online, so I guess I'll just have one less magazine cluttering my mailbox.
Posted by GSKearney (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Apple Fanatics Try to KILL All Dissent
Even in a business environment we can't get away from Apple fantatics who kill all dissent. Apple was NOT a major advertiser of PCWorld, yet the VP was the former CEO of MacWorld. This all makes sense that the Apple terrorist wins.
Posted by iZune (58 comments )
Reply Link Flag
And you as innocent as a lamb
And we are all supposed to look the other way whistling a tune and
pretend that with a name like "iZune" you have no bias or agenda
either? Riiiiigggghhhhhhhhhttttt!
Posted by kirkules (103 comments )
Link Flag
 

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