Here's my offer: I'll return DDJ into a blogger community focused on newer tech (Ruby/JS/Python/Rust/Go/Closure/Scala) with the same writing pleasure to "medium" or "svbtle". A lot of 20years old would love to write under the brand of DDJ. I ask 20% share only and as a cofounder have Andrew.
Anyone has better ideas?
I'd say that, in all honesty, you shouldn't need the DDJ brand to achieve what you're suggesting. Just start a "blogger community focused on newer tech (Ruby/JS/Python/Rust/Go/Closure/Scala) with the same writing pleasure to "medium" or "svbtle"" and see how it goes.
Don't try to ride on the bootstraps of a decades old brand that can thankfully still retire unblemished. A rarity in these times.
Why would a well-known site be sunset by its owner? In one word, revenue. Four years ago, when I came to Dr. Dobb's, we had close to $3 million in revenue, almost all of it from advertising. Despite our excellent growth on the editorial side, our revenue declined such that today it's barely 30% of what it was when I started.
A friend of mine's small business observed almost this same phenomenon. Can you elaborate why revenue has declined, even though page views have continued to grow? Is advertising fundamentally changing, and page views are no longer nearly as valuable as they once were? Or is it specifically because of Dr. Dobbs' context as a software dev news/blog site?
In particular, click fraud seems to be stinging my friend's business, but I assume it's not something that simple for Dr. Dobbs. Also, apologies if this sounds stupid. I don't have a background in advertising or marketing, but I find the subject fascinating and have been trying to learn about it.
EDIT: The next part addresses this:
This is because in the last 18 months, there has been a marked shift in how vendors value website advertising. They've come to realize that website ads tend to be less effective than they once were.
What I'm asking is, in what ways has the landscape changed?
EDIT 2: Thank you for Dr. Dobbs. It's been wonderful over the years, and I'm sad to see it go.
For publications in markets with a large number of vendors, the pool of vendors who still see advantage in web ads (such as ads that don't expect purchases, say, as for an upcoming movie) will sustain them. But the software development tools market is small with fewer than 100 vendors, many of which don't advertise at all.
So, essentially, there just was not enough advertising to keep us going.
That said, click fraud has really burned a lot of advertisers. That is why advertising on content needs to shift to a performance based model, ads that let you know that someone went to a site after they saw the ad on your page, and bought it. That should net you a few $. As it stands, advertisers bid for 10,000 clicks at a nickel ($500 ad spend) and compare that to what they sell, and they come up poorly. If they set aside $500 to reward the first 100 people who clicked through and bought something you would find things to be very very different. Click fraud doesn't work if the value isn't in the click. But this migration is currently not happening as quickly as we would like.
1) Things like AdSense? You're right. The real money is in sponsored content. Just ask BuzzFeed, Forbes, Huff, etc. There's a saying from advertisers when you confront them about traditional print/broadcast advertising success "when sales go up, it just works, you don't question it".
> That is why advertising on content needs to shift to a performance based model
2) Not all advertising is about direct click through to purchasing. Coca-cola, Pepsi and every car manufacturer in the world spend billions a year on advertising simply for brand recognition alone. No one is buying a coke because they saw an ad on Facebook, but they sure as hell associate drinking a coke with happiness because that brand association is pretty ubiquitous nowadays.
I think the OP is insuitating that they should have never been a $3mil business in the first place, which is consistent with your story about your purchase behavior. How many ChuckMcM's are there gonna be have to be that purchase products on Digikey in order to provide $3mil worth of business?
> How many ChuckMcM's are there gonna be have to be
> that purchase products on Digikey in order to provide
> $3mil worth of business?
Where does that leave us? Well wondering things. Alexa says they see about "40k visits/day" so 1.2M a month, (that would be closer to 14M/year). 40K visits a day though and clearing $83K/month (1M annual run rate) is like close to $69 RPM. That is pretty good for a content web site.
Who here wouldn't pay quite a lot more than that not jus for Dr. Dobbs - but a much more independent (or obly beholden to its readership) Dr. Dobbs?
I sorry to say I wouldn't.
There is plenty of content on the web to read, so in that sense many content sites are fungibile.
See academic publishing for an area with similar issues.
There's two types of advertising (probably really more):
1) We don't care where you buy the thing we make, just buy it. (Mazda)
2) You want that thing in #1, come buy that thing from me! (Mazda dealership)
I don't think there's ever been a question of the efficacy of #1, but #2 is probably nearly useless online. Anecdotally, an advertisement might remind me I want something, but it isn't going to change my habits in how/where I buy it. Bob's House of Laptop Batteries could offer me a price that's $2 less than Amazon, but if I see Bob offering the exact battery I need at exactly the moment I need it, there's still a pretty good chance I'll buy it from Amazon because of 1) ease, 2) trust, 3) Prime, etc.
> That is why advertising on content needs to shift to a performance based model,
As someone in the ad biz,it's something hard to do.You still need ways to track(I understand people don't like it but...) accurately where the traffic comes from.We really need innovative tools in that domain!
Finally,I think the biggest disappointment in web marketing comes from the (un)ability of social medias to really influence sells.FB and co ad services are way worse than classic web advertising.It's borderline scammy.
How do you determine whether your budget was wasted on click fraud or just ineffective landing pages?
Surely click fraud occurs, but how can you tell?
content on 3rd party site->ad->your landing page.
analyze what happens. You can compare normal behavior - time on page, number of pages viewed etc occurring from normal organic traffic against traffic generated by the ad campaign. Did one site or group of sites send 90% of your clicks, but almost zero real traffic?
Not really true. Web advertising is in the realm of junk mail spam now. People go out of their way to block, disregard, ignore it.
It may set up subconscious triggers as you suggest but extremely doubtful and hardly measurable.
Print advertising in a magazine does not have this same perception of "junk"
And why not> Print ads gently invite you to investigate a product on your own terms. Didn't you all look at the ads in Dobbs and every other special interest magazine? It's universal, still is today.
But since online advertising became more measurable than print, print slowly disappeared. In a nutshell.
Last Man Standing (almost)
Is't that what affiliate programmes are?
I must've gone about using them in the wrong way, but I didn't make any more money from then than I did from displaying Adwords.
Example: HuffPost. You consider any of that eye-ball grabbing stuff to be quality? (not making a political statement)
I think that's the wrong conclusion to draw.
Advertising on web sites works very, very well and thousands of companies depend on it on a daily basis.
What doesn't work so well is advertising on a web site that's just an online version of a magazine. The problem has a lot more to do with the magazine part than the web site aspect.
I've been reading DrDobbs for a couple of decades and I'm a fan, but the simple truth is that it's become less relevant these past years. First switching to a download only model and then progressively nagging me pretty aggressively to download my own issue (which I stopped doing because the summaries I saw in the email were of little interest to me).
Andrew, reading your editorials has always been a pleasure and you should be proud of what you accomplished.
In other forms of advertising, the advertisor is forced to confront the fact that the connection between advertising and purchasing is not a direct process because they can't see it anyways. They can see that they advertise and somewhere down the line they can observe a general rise in sales or brand knowledge, but they can almost never tie that to even a campaign, let alone a particular impression.
So you have this market for advertising where the advertisers can point to abysmal CTRs and say "See? I shouldn't be paying this much for such terrible action!" while still reaping the benefits of less tangible brand recognition down the road. And thus is born a race to the bottom.
Publishers did not burn themselves. They were desperate for survival. If they only ran, say 3 banners through an online article they would have simply been out of business. There was nowhere else to turn for many of them as the advertising disappeared. Evolution.
Of course lots of ads are never seen. Lots of newspaper ads and magazine ads -- if you were to count each individual printing of the ad as its own entity -- are never seen by a human being before the thing ends up in the recycling bin.
This is completely separate from the old saying in marketing, "half my advertising budget is completely wasted, but I don't know which half." That's saying that half of all ad buys are completely worthless.
The only thing Google did wrong was to actually measure if their ads were viewable (for more than a second, mind you).
edit minor fixes
My personal experience with Google AdWords (take it as an anecdote) is depressing. 10 years ago I had a real and measurable ROI using it. Fastforward a few years and I didn't receive a single customer from them until one day I turned off all my campaigns. In parallel I received many customers from our blog articles, links, etc.
There is another force against ads: AdBlock. The use of adblockers is growing, more in our field.
But I think I see where you're going. There are a lot of ways to reach developers with ads online. And, frankly, developers are not a very good demographic for advertisers. As a group, they don't spend all that much money. (Compare to e.g. CIOs who may be in charge of million dollar IT budgets.)
There's a very real value to awareness campaigns, but awareness campaigns are out of fashion at the moment. It's all about attribution and measurable response right now. The pendulum has swung too far in that direction, if you ask me. But it's very hard to argue with numbers you can tool around with and impact directly, or with placements that you can buy into programmatically, and not on fixed sales cycles. Also, no one site or publication -- no matter how valuable its readership niche -- can outcompete the scale and the addressibility of the dozens and dozens of ad networks out there these days. (Or, at least, very few sites are perceived to be able to outcompete networks.)
Ad-supported publishing is in an unfortunate and precarious position, as this piece sadly but correctly identifies.
When someone creates the ads the ad almost always focuses on one of those two things. Purchase oriented ads are expected to produce a certain number of actual purchase, have metrics to measure their success, and have one set of techniques. Brand awareness has different metrics and generally takes different means to be successful.
My understanding (as an outsider who doesn't work directly in advertising) is that failed purchase-oriented ads are not viewed as successful brand awareness ads. If they wanted brand awareness they'd do a separate ad campaign that targets that specifically and would do a better job. So if a purchase ad fails to drive purchasing, it's still considered a failure.
> My understanding (as an outsider who doesn't work directly in advertising)
Aah. Yeah, in our market, you're not correct about brand awareness campaigns being a) recent and b) neglible. Most of our biggest spending campaigns are branding campaigns, and have been since 2007. Big caveat - I'm not in the US market.
The technical terms tend to be CPM/CPC/CPx/CPO, depending on who you're talking to - cost per thousand impressions (branding), cost per click, cost per conversion, cost per order.
My point was that (by my understanding) an ad aimed at generating clicks or conversions was measured for success by whether it generated clicks or conversions. It wouldn't be redeemed by being getting a lot of impressions if it failed on those counts. If the advertiser cared about impressions, they'd be running a campaign targeted at impressions.
But those campaigns tend to predominate on low-value inventory, whereas the branding campaigns naturally want a higher end of the market for impressions and the demographics viewing them.
Non-CPM is where Google really shines, their click-through on CPC is, AFAIK, an order of magnitude above the industry average.
The ways forward as I see them are
Make your advertising compelling in and of itself, so that people want to see it.
Make the content that is being shown after or around the advertising so compelling that people will put up with your attempts to advertise to them (there's been a lot of pushback on such attempts on the web; does anyone bother with popups any more?).
Do something that's not advertising.
Adsense seems to do pretty well (~$12 billion/year). It's been dropping a bit, and many individual sites don't do well with it, but some do quite well. Did you guys ever experiment with it and test the earnings? Adsense and networks like it have the benefit of showing retargeted ads, so you can get considerably better CTR's and ad inventory relevant to each individual user than you would get from just showing static IDE maker ads.
Closing down an institution like Dr. Dobb's can't be something you're doing lightly, but I cannot believe that there isn't some way to generate revenue from millions of engineers visiting your site every month. There are other tech publications that seem to do quite well.
No offense intended, but profitability of the entity selling the advert space does not mean return was generated for advertisers.
There are trillions more ad venues (pages) to advertise on vs 10 years ago. Digital advertising may have gone way up, but it's way more spread out.
Ted Bahr, SD Times, still printing!
Would you say that the online marketing fixation on hard metrics, like click-throughs, conversion rates, and page views have poisoned the well here? The engagement metrics for print and television are far softer because the complete data isn't available, they have to extrapolate from samples.
I'm surprised that sponsorship isn't more of a thing. The rise of crowd-funded projects should be studied to see if a similar thing can't be done for magazines like this journal except instead of person to creator, more company to company.
I don't think the problem is yours, editorially, but being a little blunter than I like to be.. I wonder if the right company owns DDJ, because this is as much as a gold rush period as any other and DDJ remains in the upper echelons of its niche.
(Disclaimer: I sell advertising of this nature on developer related properties.)
I visit the site and I see the same ad over and over (Interop Convention).
Did you have anyone dedicated managing ad operations for the site? We're you selling any of your users data points to third-party data providers?*
* For the people who hate the idea of a free content site selling your data, this is a good example of what happens.
The reason you see Interop over and over again is that this is a house ad - placed by UBM on a UBM site - in lieu of having any paid advertising.
We run house ads and banners too - free to us - for our conferences on sdtimes.com
Ted Bahr SD Times
If I'm on drdobbs.com in one tab and only being served house ads, but in my second tab I have retargeted ads being served to me, that's lost revenue for drdobbs.com
1. they aren't teenagers
2. they run websites that depend on ad revenue
3. they realize content creators need to get paid
So I installed an ad blocker, which actually made my 3g wifi hotspot usable over the summer. (Yes, I should stop visiting sites that get too annoying with aggressive ads, or I should just selectively block those sites).
It's one of those "I bet someone got a nice bonus for that" ideas that destroys user trust: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/oldnewthing/archive/2006/11/01/92244...
Slashdot's audio ads don't wait 10 minutes to start. Slashdot's much hated auto-refresh "feature" is to blame.
It periodically refreshes the page and brings you a new crop of ads, some of which might be audio ads.
The auto-refresh "feature" merely exists to increase their ad revenue. Nobody I know likes the auto-refresh feature, as it just causes you to lose your place on the page.
Slashdot's auto-refresh, which can't be disabled without some technical tinkering, is horrible, just horrible. I've left feedback that they should include an option to disable auto-refresh, but was ignored. I guess it's more profitable to ignore your users and force more ads on them.
I installed Adblock Plus and tweaked some Chrome settings to get the system to mostly ignore Slashdot's horrible auto-refresh. It still sometimes scrolls my page a bit, though, which is still annoying.
1. We want to speed up web-browsing experience.
2. Save internet bandwidth.
3. Are quite tired of highly intrusive, epileptic-seizure-inducing flash ads (some of them with audio).
4. Security reasons ( I personally use Noscript which has the side-effect of blocking ads)
5. Simply refuse to accept tracking cookies.
I wouldn't mind viewing unobtrusive text or image ads without tracking cookies (eg: StackOverflow) but very few websites actually implement those. I asked the owner of Phoronix.com about this a while back (who also seems to be having issues with the financial side of things)- Basically unobtrusive ads have much lower value than the obtrusive ones.
- Many websites these days are designed to get you to "accidentally" click on ads if you're using a mobile device. I'm not at all surprised that advertisers are catching on to this.
- Websites (CNN, I'm looking at you) that move around to trick you into clicking on ads.
- Autoplay video ads that almost make ad blocking software mandatory.
This point is likely to prove very contentious thanks to a critical mass of HNers with vested interest on either side.
I didn't use any adblocker software until earlier this year (much to the surprise of many other developers I talk with who adopted it much earlier). While I also didn't click many ads, I figured the least I could do for all the free content I was consuming was keep the ads showing.
Then the line between what used to be "real" sites and clickbait sites began to blur rapidly (see, for example, the weather channel site which is now basically a clickbait digital tabloid) and advertisements on "real" sites got really pushy in ways that would previously only be done on sketchier sites, popping open tabs I never requested, etc.
I eventually hit an annoyance level where I was forced to install an adblocker just to keep using the web.
But I have recently switched to ad blocking as well due to tracking and worse due to broadband caps.
I refuse to fill up my 400GB Cox cap with ads except on sites that deserve it. The content and marketing industries need to lobby hard against broadband caps to limit cuts into their industries, the broadband mafia wants their cut of every download and all ads run.
When I was a computer consultant, I helped an attorney client install a software package that was specifically designed for attorneys to use. It didn't work as he had intended it to when he purchased it. So he asked for a ridiculous concession from them, was denied it so he filed a lawsuit against them. I imagine the company probably gets sued a few times per week with their litigious client base.
But you're spot on with attorneys. Worst customers I ever had was in the legal space. Not only do they get lawsuit happy, but there are a lot of attorneys out there being paid a lot of money because a very bad paper based system is still in place, and tech is not their friend.
Regarding attorneys: I can't imagine that it's really that prevalent. Anyone who was that litigious would quickly gain a representation as such among the legal community.
Besides, I expect direct patronage models to supplant advertising for smaller sites sooner rather than later. And yes, I already use Patreon.
There are no paywalls, it is like a wealthy patron paying for a public concert.
Ad-blocking is a necessary form of protection from corporate stalking.
It wouldn't be necessary if advertisers would restrict themselves to tracking what's necessary to create a functional ad (browser, capability, etc.). But they are bound and determined to mine for every possible bit of information they can and that's where I draw the line.
If you wouldn't want an individual doing that, why on <deity>'s green earth would would want some anonymous company doing it in an automated fashion such that they can almost guarantee a far more exact picture of you? Does this not completely subvert the idea of privacy? Especially when security is not absolute guarantee?
I think if people really, truly understood just how easy it is to collect the data, store the data and then still manage to get it wrong, they'd be horrified beyond belief. I'm sure a lot of people here have some inkling of how that's done, but if that could be communicated to the people who aren't as tech-savvy ...
Well, sad to say, there'd be a lot of pitchforks and torches and still nothing would be truly done about it.
But it's nice to think about burning down some corporations and lining up a few executives against the wall.
To give a concrete example in support of your statement, here is what Dr.Dobb's does in the web page of the article on topic (and I did have click-to-play enable, might have been worst without it) for someone without a blocker:
There's no need for my grocery store to know that I, personally, use a particular type of condiment or toothbrush. The aggregate sales should be enough to determine what they need to buy and advertise.
None of this should suggest I'm some kind of altruist, except in the sense that I believe in level playing fields. Also, I'm human so some irrationality or self-interest is sometimes OK.
You still need a trusted editor to collect and curate... but that editor certainly doesn't need the multinational corporation, not anymore. Its not 1975 and ink on paper.
The future probably looks a lot like "Clojure Gazette", which is a curated edited list of links to blog posts and projects focusing on a rather small field, and THE (emphasis, "the") only human involved is a trusted editor and he gets beer money plus considerable fame out of being the editor.
Reading between the lines, at Dr Dobbs a small team can pull down less than a million bucks. To a multinational megacorporation, thats hopeless, sunset it. Divided among a very small team, however, that's one heck of a lifestyle business...
The idea that people should be forced to suffer, by viewing ads that are useless to them, in exchange for viewing free content is a very silly concept born of puritanical ideals. If a site can't sustain itself with users running ad block then it needs to figure out a better business model, period.
Additionally some will survive on subscriptions.
It's much easier, not to mention safer, to uninstall Flash and stop visiting sites which don't respect their audience.
Running Disconnect without AdBlock is an interesting experience. It shows whose ads are trying to track you, and who just wants to show you ads.
I've never run AdBlock or any "stop viewing ads" software. I have run NoScript and those variations, which sometimes kills ads as a side-effect.
That said, there must still be some value in brand recognition. I guess it's just not as much value as vendors had previously ascribed to these ads.
For those that claim this is stealing, that would imply that there was an explicit price with click to purchase button to view the webpage. There is no entitlement to the website operator, any ad click or donation is completely up to the discretion of the visitor. To claim people are stealing by using adblock is arrogance.
I've seen AdBlock Plus fail on YouTube in a particularly annoying way--the ads that consist of a long video (often 2 minutes or more) with a "you can skip this ad in 5 seconds" overlay that counts down and turns into a skip button are shown--but with that overlay and skip button removed!
I recently installed AdBlock (at home) and AdBlock Plus (at work), and I'm not really impressed. At most sites, ads did not bother me. I installed these because of one particular site that was getting too obnoxious. That was gocomics.com. They started running frequent ads that expand on the left side of the page, which would often push the end of the comic I was reading off the right side of the page.
I'd much prefer if I could have these off for most sites, and only block ads on specific sites that I find overly aggressive. They support this, but there doesn't seem to be a good interface to manage it, and it looks like it would get impractical to deal with a lot of sites that way.
I'd rather pay the site directly if they'd stop displaying ads.
Several companies experiment with those kinds of revenue stream: OkCupid shows you this  banner encouraging you to pay 5$ if you're using an ad blocker.
Reddit has the "gilding" concept. While I don't know if that pays out at the end of the day, I'd rather pay the site directly than having them to rely on distracting and sometimes malicious ads which load 3 embedded flash player objects and destroy the site's performance.
By relying on ads, sites naturally introduced a terrible usability. Notice how many times you encounter a complete page reload where a simple AJAX call would have done the job better? That's because you sell a certain number of page impressions to advertisers, and the sooner they're used up, the sooner you get paid. The complete system is a mess.
That analogy doesn't work very well in this context. A more realistic example would if they were giving away cookies in exchange of you getting inside and see their advertising and one friends of yours gets inside and take several cookies so you and your other friends don't have see the ads.
It wouldn't be stealing because the cookies are "free" but still you might feel like taking advantage.
I am agree with you and I would rather pay for the site but many people won't and that's exactly why several content providing are having troubles with ad-blockers.
I wouldn't break into your house and steal your cookies, but if you put up signs all over advertising your open house with free cookies, if you twist my arm enough I'll cave in and show up and eat a cookie. Just don't be annoyed at me when I don't buy the house. Practically no one purchases, anyway.
Exactly my point... just are just taking advantage of the "free content". And everybody go for the cookies. Then they will be stop offering cookies (even though there were really good cookies)
Me too. Problem. All sites that offer subscription require way more money for it than their revenue I gave them by watching ads.
There is no convenient way to give a couple of cents to a site, to replace lost revenue.
If you want to block those using adblockers then it's possible, any indication that those with adblockers are unwelcome will certainly be respected by me; I'll just find another source, maybe Google's cache. Oh, you don't want Google to cache your site, well you know what to do, it's easy to prevent.
Personally I started with adblockers when ads went dynamic, motion distracts my eye too much and means I can't read the content. In-your-face-ads make me determined not to buy from those companies - most of which don't sell in my country anyway, it seems.
If Adblocking is stealing then so is shutting your eyes during ads at a cinema, or going to the toilet in a broadcast-TV advert break, or looking at an amusing billboard without checking who the advertising company is, ....
And you say people with ad blockers have no integrity?
I don't use an ad blocker. It's a form of piracy like torrents are. Getting content without paying. I'm also a content producer and i know it really hurts the already weak sustainability of content websites.
[Edit: I forgot a big thank you! I still remember reading the article on red-black trees in my teens. Took me many years to realize the significance - but we learn best by streching up, to that which is just out of reach.]
Is that actual quote from the site? Since now it just says: "Dr. Dobb's, we had healthy profits and revenue, almost all of it from advertising"
I'm just curious how they would manage to spend $3 MILLION in 4 years and how it wouldn't be profitable to run a website that was ONLY $1 million revenue.
I've never even heard of the site until now, so I have no idea what they are doing, but it really seems odd that money was an issue if you are raking in millions.
In my head I picture them as a small company, not just "some website". $1m in revenue doesn't make for a very large company. I'm curious how they morphed in size over time and what their expenses were.
I'm guessing the choices they faced was between a slow multi-year slide along:
cut costs->lower quality content->less viewers->less money->cut costs...
and simply seeing the writing on the wall and calling it quits before they hit rock bottom. I guess a third option would be to take The New Republic route and throw out everything the current audience loved about the magazine and try to create a new, entirely different product, with the same name but focusing a potentially more profitable market. But I respecting for not wanting to go that route either.
I guess if that doesn't cover the expenses to create the kind of content that gets you $1 million in revenue, then the numbers are wrong, but I find that hard to believe.
Pro accounts could:
1) remove all advertising from the site.
2) have access to content early like drafts of upcoming articles
3) have access to revised or updates to articles
4) allow people to recommend articles
the list could go on, you'll probably think of a thousand things that I couldn't since I'm not in marketing.
Thank you and Deirdre and the rest of the DDJ staff for your awesome work!
If the site has high quality traffic and 10MM pv/month they shouldn't be closing the doors. Based on a 5 minute look at the website and some of the ads seems like the site is restricting its ad revenue to software industry vendors when they could open it up to the rest of the advertising world that wants to pay to serve an in-view ad to a real person with a software engineer's salary.
I've never heard of UBM, but the article portrays it as a company with a vertically focused print and tradeshow revenue model that has a few web properties.
The 1996 website monetization model has been disrupted within the last 5 years with ad exchanges that hold auctions in real-time, and most companies with roots in print don't have a clue whats happening in their industry - see new york times, time magazine, plenty more whose traditional ad sales revenues are plummeting
IMO a web property would fail to adapt to the modern revenue model because 1) C level execs don't know what to change it to, 2) they don't understand the new model, or 3) they think that auction based CPMs will be too low so they haven't tested it. In the case of DrDobbs.com with solid traffic and a high quality, established b2b audience, not sure it makes sense to fold the property.
Disclaimer: I used to work at an ad agency and I now work at a data company for ad exchanges.
Edit: here is a 3rd party source on growth in the RTB channel, to which UBM has no exposure:
A few years ago, that would be 20 or so, a friend loaned me a CD with all the magazine text from inception until that time. Is there any chance for a final "all of ddj" DVD?
Just the same as old comic books were filled with brine shrimp and muscle building ads, I would look forward to seeing those old ads about compilers that were _only_ $199.99! and programs that "look the same on Windows, and on Macintosh!"
Seeing these things helps gives a context to the times in which they were printed, and allows for an appreciation for just how far we've come.
At $300 per ad, you'd need about 800 ads a month to reach $3 mil/year. Achievable?
Dr. Dobb's Jobs has a nice ring. And a freelancer board could be Dr. Dobb's Odd Jobs :)
I would guess if that revenue stream dried up...
I bought it every month since the early 90's until it went digital. Alongside Computer Shopper UK edition and The C User's Journal (latter The C/C++ User's Journal), Dr Dobbs was my door to the computing world.
In a country where BBS were too expensive for most families and the Internet was yet to come, I waited religiously for the next issue delivery.
Thanks a lot for the hard work!
Since then, Dr. Dobbs has been the shining example of highly technical material.
Thank you for everything your magazine meant.
Edit: I guess there's a lesson to be learned here, to try to be conscious of the things I use (I wasn't, really) and do what I can to support them.
I wonder if you could make enough revenue via crowdfunded support? Recurring subscriptions and one time contributions can really add up.
At Beacon, we helped Techdirt.com raise $70k to cover Net Neutrality full time.
I think your community is incredibly passionate and probably would cover what you need.
Email me (email@example.com if you're keen, we'd love to help (and give you a big discount on our cut).
I'm curious to know - have you explored other forms of revenue like sponsored content. For instance there is a great deal of paid software out there and a great number of companies create infrastructure for complex software out there like (e.g. Hadoop). Today companies more than ever are pouring their advertising budgets into marketing budgets to create content around their brands... this could perhaps let you stay on mission creating valuable content for the most difficult software while providing a revenue source. I'm throwing out there what I'm sure you have already considered, but I hate to see a good thing go!
It's amazing how difficult it is to do that kind of analysis in-house. For example, it's very difficult for companies to look at a special feature they added at great cost and figure out why it's not getting traction or attention. Or they know but have no way to communicate the reality because of internal politics. So, having an outside voice say "this should be removed" or "this needs to have an API" or the like makes it much easier to have the conversation. And so on.
It also published a number of fairly legendary article series where many of its readers got their first introduction to topics like operating system design or writing your own C compiler. So basically if you programmed in the 80's or 90's it was most likely a huge influence on you.
Thank you. Best of luck to you.
I still have some of the magazines from 1994 floating around. It's amazing how nostalgic they are now—but the pouring back over those magazines brings me back to my younger days where computers were more mysterious, and creating things was more magical.
Dr Dobbs provided a great service. They offered informative articles on not only programming, but also on the user experience, design, IDEs, math, and the whole "programmer" gamut—and they did such a wide spread without losing quality. I do wish you could name an alternative to this, but I find myself coming up empty, as well.
The same as you mentioned in regards to events, these types of information are now spread througout multiple sites: HN for general 'tech' news, MOOCs for programming, sometimes Reddit for actual helpful information. I look forward to seeing if people will try to fill this gap of an all-in-one hub, that also has quite knowledgeable authors.
I do wonder, this article mentions Dr Dobbs staying constant; constant in delivering quality articles, constant in its design, and so forth. Would you say this is an issue of not adapting to current trends (or "with the times")? It seemed [to me] that the move from print to digital was a late move that could have been done in a better way. While the content is great, I've ironically found the online site not as engaging as having the print copies in hand. I do not know many people who subscribe to online only publications, and of the ones I do know, they usually will go through a service such as Amazon.
Also, while I understand the anecdote about ad revenue and clicking, it does bring up a fair point. I do not know many tech saavy people who knowingly click on advertisements (if they're not blocked, to begin with). In fact, as a technician at an old job, we were told to warn the general public about what sites they visit, and to make sure they're not clicking on ads, as they might be "unscrupulous" [former manager's words].
Could this offer an opportunity for a company to come along and create and display advertisements that the majority of people will know are safe? While Googles ads have their name displayed, I know many people who feel "odd" seeing text ads, and feel they're trying to trick them. There must be a better way to make the user feel comfortable clicking, as well as letting them know the content and site they will go to are safe. Flash ads, and a mile long URL being pointed to are not going to do it.
I used to buy the paper magazine every month. There was only one newsstand that would sell it, in a city 25 miles away from where I lived. It was worth it every time.
It'll be dearly missed.
There is little editing going on there, though.
I believe the need for a high quality publication oriented to professional developers there still exists.
Where do you think people would be going now that Dr. Dobbs won't be available?
So sad to hear this. Dobbs was an institution, and a very respected one at that. Drop me a line, let me know what you're up to next.
I'm an editor at Programmer Magazine in China (http://special.csdn.net/programmercovers/), as a coincidence, after 14 years operation, we just release the last print issue last week and withdrawal towards the electronic version only. I think we share the similar experience and feeling about how the tech medias evolved recently.
But media is still a very active field, if you have read the New York Times innovation report that leaked earlier this year, you may get a mixed feeling that with the risks, there are still opportunities to build an independent site with in-depth articles, code, algorithms, and reliable product reviews, which quality media should have.
But unfortunately, most decisions were not made by the ones who love this career, have ability and skill to lead the change, and do not fear to face the risks.
Today Google Ads and Amazon Referral with the new greatly reduced payments are the new problem. IMO pay per click (PPC) is a big problem (1. click fraud, 2. most people don't click anyway but seeing it still influence by seeing it, 3. adblock/noscript blocks 3rd-party scripts) and it got popular as Google introduced it in AdWords in 2002. Til 2002, cost per thousand impression (CPI) and cost per mille (CPM) where most used. CPI/CPM are the better model for website owners and company that run Ad-campaigns; PPC for Google an other ad networks.
Paywalls are not the answer, the WWW is successful because it is open.
Learn from the history: Microsoft's MSN started as serious competitor to WWW, and it was a fiasco in 1995. (I mean the original The Microsoft Network that came with Win95: http://winsupersite.com/windows-live/msn-inside-story (incl. photos)). Bill Gates even completely rewrote his "The Road Ahead" book half a year later - I have both editions, and almost every page has different wordings (MS Network, Information Highway -> Internet/WWW)
Running your own ad server is a big, big liability. While running a news website is mostly a read-operation, adservers are extremely write-heavy (every adview results in at least 2 write operations). Do that 10 time for every page view, and have 100 pageviews a second during peak times, and you suddenly find yourself becoming and engineering company instead of a publishing company.
Anyway, the scenario you are describing to "disrupt" to ad market is exactly the scenario we had in the 90s. Everyone was using phpAds, which could be embedded directly from within php, and advertisers ran almost exclusively CPM based campaigns. What happened? Publishers found out that their adserver was eating >95% of their server resources because frankly, adserving is HARD, and advertisers found that their ROI was crap because people didnt click ads.
The real disruption is already happening, in the background, far away from where the public looks -- real time bidding has completely disrupted the adserving market in the last two years, and more and more ad networks find themselves becoming irrelevant.
Disclaimer: i was co-founder and cto of an adserving platform.
If it's a race to the bottom like Uber than that's not good for website owners. And RTB automates just one side, the buyer side could/should be automated too.
All hassles aside, the best advertisement method for visitors and website owners would still be the old fashioned way of hosting the ads on the webserver itself and doing CPI/CPM (best as in not sitting in a glass house, and no need for Adblock/Noscript as last resort). Google used MySQL for Google Ads until ~2012, it should be fast enough for 95% of the websites. RTM is write heavy, old style CPM isn't by today's hardware standards.
The disruption could be to get more ad-buyers on this bandwagon (again). Only the website owner (theoretically) and (as good example) Amazon.com can provide good matching advertisement. I have yet to come across a Google Ad or one of the other ads that displays content that interests me at all.
The problem is, they are not the customer -- the advertiser is the customer. The measurability of internet advertising is also its fallacy: while in traditional media outlets, advertisers just keep buying and buying "because our managers will fire us if we do not get the advertising slots before black friday", on the internet, advertisers discover that their ROI of black friday ads is very low and adjust their willingness to pay premium prices for them accordingly.
You forget the constraints that advertisers have been putting onto CPM based campaigns also: for example, frequency capping is a common targeting mechanism since the 90s: only show my ad 3 times to the same visitor within a 30 minute timespan. It involves a lot of cookie processing, session logging (think about race conditions when multiple ads are requested in the same pageviews, etc).
If you have 20 campaigns running with a decent frequency cap, you can get a LOT higher average CPM than otherwise (because advertisers get a certain guarantee of the amount of exposures / visitor).
Anyway, I'm all for disruption, and I've been the technical lead of an adserving platform for almost 10 years -- and I'm glad I had an exit and can leave the market behind me. It's complex, margins are extremely low, and you are only able to disrupt if you cater to the advertisers, not to the publishers/visitors. The things that are currently disrupting the market are only in the best interest of the advertiser, because hey, that's where the money is coming from. One of the more scary startups I encountered in the last months I was active was a startup that linked location data to visitor cookies -- buying "bogus" facebook ads to link a cooke to a location, and using that information as feedback for offline advertising (for example, how many people are able to see our billboard daily? how many people were in the football stadium when we ran our ads?). All kinds of red flags privacy-wise, but that's where the market is moving. Google is moving towards abusing their cookie (they have one big "super"-cookie both for advertising and gmail and search -- you cannot opt out of targeted advertising without opting out of gmail) and linking mobile location data with the cookie on your desktop.
Disruption on the publisher/visitor side is nice in theory, but I am very afraid it does not work in practice.
We're rather far along down that road already, from what I can tell, and the place it leads terrifies me.
https://www.moviepass.com etc. I think even big chains like AMC are now offering subscriptions.
Maybe paywall is going to become less of a dirty word. Subscriber revenue/data is definitely more valuable & predictable.
I think that what killed Dr. Dobbs is ultimately that the Internet sparked a huge availability of quality programming info online, which drove the price of this info through the floor. I've spent my morning Googling obscure corner-cases for Django form validation; there are dozens of pages freely available in the official docs, StackOverflow, GitHub, blogs, etc. It's hard to compete with free.
I think it broke the market - but at the same time, very little online is of the same quality IMNHO. But some of it is just good enough that too many seem to stop paying for the really good stuff. Or paying for the privilege to get the ads that come with the really good stuff, more like. I'm actually a little shocked that something like DDJ would be happy on 3M revenue - feels like that should be easy to rack in on subscriptions for such a solid brand. I guess it isn't
this is sad news. Dr. Dobb's was always a beacon in the computer and software publication landscape, one I grew up with and I've cherished till today.
I still remember the moments of pride and the feeling of recognition when we've seen the first positive reviews of our work in Dr Dobb's many years ago - something that could only be achieved by the high standing and excellent editorial work of the magazine's team and efforts.
While it might be understandable from a financial or commercial point of view that it's better to stop now than later, hopefully there will be an agreement found with one of the big data center providers (IBM, MS, Google, AWS)to keep the current site online and the archives open for the many who certainly will find inspiration and guidance in much of what had been written in Dr Dobb's during almost 40 years.
I find it particularly poignant because I recently scanned in my copies of the early compendium volumes "running lite without overbyte" which I had bought at the West Coast Computer Faire so long ago. Unwilling to keep the large format books around, they live on as searchable PDFs on my iPad.
Seriously now, I read Abrash's stuff on Dr Dobb's, and it was that magazine (above all others) that instilled in me the idea that coding was above and beyond the drudgery we waded through in college - that it was an art form that emerged from systematic thought process and a deep understanding of how bend technology to your will.
I just hope they don't dilute the brand -- I can see someone having the bright idea of setting up a Programming 101 kind of site under that name a couple of years down the road, and really hope someone, somewhere, somewhen, will pick up the torch and make sure it stays associated with "true masters" (if there is such a thing).
(like many folk, I sometimes feel Scott Adams is drawing Dilbert while watching a live feed from our office)
I tossed all those magazines in a fit of purging when I was leaving home and heading to college. There may be a handful still in some storage box.
Thanks, Dr. Dobb's.
It was at the same time first visited Sweden, where I now live, and I remember the thrill of seeing Dr. Dobb's, with my article, on the newsstand in this foreign land.
Now I read blogs and HN links to some of the things I once got from Dr. Dobb's, that newsstand no longer exists, and neither is Dr. Dobb's.
Life is change. Thanks, Dr. Dobb's!
It's a shame I've read Dr. Dobbs for I don't know how long. They should sell to someone, keep it alive.
For that kind of revenue, it sure seems like there's a viable business there...
What am I missing?
I say that in the spirit of tough love, as Dr. Dobbs has always been a brand I trust to deliver quality content - when I can find it and it's legible.
I remember when I bought The Waite Group's Turbo-C Bible that came out in 1988. I practically had the thing memorized.
Today, my IDE does a tremendous job of guessing what I'm trying to do. Google does great work at telling me what's causing error messages that occur while I'm debugging. It can also give me example code of almost exactly what I'm trying to do in the exact language I'm trying to do it in (and probably a dozen other languages to boot).
We seem to have gone from an era requiring pre-knowledge programming to an era allowing just-in-time-knowledge programming. Dr. Dobbs was a great part of the old era and I'm sad to see it go.
This is the reality of most businesses. Yes, most people know they won't be a Facebook or a Instagram, but those insanely high numbers have skewed what "success" means in a lot of people's minds. 99.999% of businesses don't making tens of millions of dollars with a handful of 20-somethings.
Success in business is surviving for a non-trivial amount of time
Success also means knowing when to stop, but even then "sunset" in this context doesn't mean to stop. Doug Kaye did an excellent closing-up-shop podcast for the end of IT Conversations describing why he chose to "sunset" the site, rather than work to keep the site going or shut it down completely.
For that matter, I've closed my consulting business in the US when I moved away. That company was a success, even though it no longer survives.
My point is that "success" for a company does not mean billions of dollars or hundreds of millions of dollars. Success can mean hundreds of thousands or even less. Success can mean a business that supports its employees for years and years and years. Dr Dobbs is a good example of a success without all that craziness.
Unfortunately, HN and the tech scene as a whole focuses a ton of attention on these massive massive valuations and exits. This distorts what "success" means and places it on an near impossibly high pillar.