In January of 1984, Apple announced the Macintosh. Among the many things which made the launch memorable was the fact that the brand-new computer was accompanied by a brand-new magazine, IDG's Macworld. Thanks to a deal hashed out by IDG's David Bunnell and Apple's Steve Jobs, the first issue debuted the same day that the Mac did, which means that there's never been such a thing as a Mac market that wasn't covered by Macworld.
Sadly, that long run is about to end. In a move whose timing is strange and poignant, IDG is closing the magazine as of the November issue and laying off most of the staff, a day after the Macworld staff covered one of the biggest events in Apple history. Macworld editorial director Jason Snell, who's leaving, has some details on his personal blog.
Macworld.com will continue on—as the websites of shuttered magazines tend to do—but it won't be the same. Macworld was among the very last examples of the once-thriving business proposition known as the computer magazine; the only surviving ones I can think of with meaningful circulation are Future's Maximum PC and MacLife.
I haven't seen an official statement from IDG about its decision, but really, there doesn't need to be one. It's obvious why a printed monthly magazine about computers might shut down in 2014, and the fact that Macworld kept on going for so long is an achievement in itself.
I was never a Macworld staffer, but I worked at its sister publication, PC World, for many years—which eventually meant sharing office space with the Macworld team. Later, I wrote a few stories for Macworld as a freelancer.
But my most important relationship with Macworld was always that of a magazine reader. I started devouring it circa 1987, when I began using a Mac Plus to desktop-publish a fanzine, and never stopped. At its best, it may have been the finest magazine about one specific computing platform that anyone's ever published—well written, beautifully designed, and surprisingly provocative.
I wouldn't have been as interested in Macs back in the day if I didn't have Macworld as a guide. And as Apple's product line expanded to include iPods, iPhones, and iPads, it was fun to watch Macworld's horizons broaden. I'm sorry that it won't be covering the story of the Apple Watch, at least as a print publication.
As I said when I wrote about the death of PC World in print form last year, I'm not mindlessly nostalgic about the old days of tech journalism: The web is the best medium ever invented for helping people get the most out of the gadgets in their lives, and I wouldn't trade it away to get back Macworld and PC World and PC Magazine and BYTE and Creative Computing and all of the other great magazines which don't exist anymore.
Still, I'm glad that there was an era when I had that monthly ritual of setting aside time to explore the new Macworld. It was something special—and something which the web, for all its wonders, can't replicate.