Macworld, the "Grand Old Lady" of Mac magazines, is turning into a doddering old fool.

Macworld magazine has been around from the beginning of the Mac and, for most of that time, has been the most respected magazine in the admittedly small industry, winning multiple awards and setting the standard for “The Way It Should Be done”.

No longer.

While not the fault of the usually exceptional editorial team, they have been the ones taking the brunt of the criticism as they are the public face of the magazine and web site. From auto play ads and videos at the top of stories (seriously, does *anyone* outside of IDG’s (Macworld’s parent company) marketing department think those are a good idea?) to writing staff trying their hand, usually poorly, at being “video stars” to annoying pop ups on *every* web page, the quality of the journalism is being shit on by the ad sales and marketing assholes.

Today, it got worse.

The web site has a story titled, “How to easily convert your old DVDs into digital files you can watch anywhere”. Why are they doing yet another story on this? Everyone knows Handbrake and other apps do this and do it well. Why not point to those stories?” The story then pimps an app called Aiseesoft Mac Video Converter Ultimate.

Leaving aside the awkward name and the fact I’ve never heard of the company or the software, something didn’t feel quite right. At no point in the story does the writer (Michael Smith, a name I’m unfamiliar with supposedly from something called the “IDG Creative Lab”) make mention of alternative apps, as Macworld stories often do. The kicker comes at the end of the story.

“Click here for a special holiday deal on Aiseesoft’s Video Converter Ultimate.”

If you check out that link, it’s obviously one used for tracking – it ends with “…christmas-macworld.html”.

And then….

“This sponsored article was written by IDG Creative Lab, a partner of Macworld.”


While I hate “sponsored posts”, which is just a lame euphemism for “The company mentioned paid us to whore ourselves”, I have a HUGE problem when that information is hidden from the reader or listener at the bottom of the page.

If you are going to sell your journalistic soul to your commercial interests, that sale should have giant red letters at 96pt on the TOP of your web site. Only the sleaziest sites would “bury the lede” at the bottom of the page as Macworld has done here.

Now, some of you might have gone to the page and see this story listed as “SPONSORED | By Michael Smith, IDG Creative Lab”. First of all, it’s under the “News and Insights” section of the site. This is neither news or particularly insightful.

Advertorials should *never* appear on a site’s news pages. NEVER.

But, if you’re like me and hate the site layout with the blinding passion of a thousand supernovas, you get your site information from an RSS feed. This is how it looks in Feedly:
Do you see the word “SPONSORED” at all? And then, when you get to the page either from or their RSS Feed, nowhere at the top does it say “Sponsored Post” or Advertorial” or “This post written while we had Aiseesoft’s dick in our mouths…” has jumped over a line they were never supposed to even come close to. By even unintentionally blurring the Chinese Wall between their journalistic integrity and their ad sales and marketing departments, they not only continue to chip away at their reputation, they make it that much harder to get back.

And we in the Mac Community will be that much poorer for the loss.

4 thoughts on “Macworld, the "Grand Old Lady" of Mac magazines, is turning into a doddering old fool.”

  1. Way back when, the Mac was this obscure, unsupported platform and, in order to do anything useful on it, people needed to figure out hacks and find these obscure applications. If you were online, sites like The Mac Orchard and Pure-Mac were great for pointing you in the right direction. If you weren’t, it was these magazines – MacWorld and MacAddict and so on — that got you there. They were useful, bundled decent software along with them, and helped you get “the most” out of your machine.

    The Mac isn’t “unsupported” anymore, and most of those obscure hacks that we had to find are no longer relevant. Remember having to install USB Overdrive just to use a gamepad? Now, my XBox USB gamepad works without even installing drivers. Remember when your printer didn’t have Mac drivers, so you had to set it up in generic “Epson Mode”? Not anymore… 90% of printers work within seconds of being plugged in. OSX finds the drivers for you. Those obscure apps we had to find aren’t relevant, either. Any software that a novice user might need is relatively easy to locate in the safe, screened, App Store now included with every Mac. If you can’t find it there, most people at this point are well-versed enough with computers to be able to find it without the need for special websites.

    Those websites that we used back then have, for the most part, gone dark; and the magazines, which were once great paper behemoths with bundled CDs, have now mostly devolved into online blogs written by people who lack both the time or interest in making it useful. The Mac, in fact, is best categorized as just any other system: the machines are able to run any OS that any other machine can run and, as many of the applications are deferred to “the cloud”, the option to use OSX becomes as transparent as the options to use Windows, Chrome, or Linux. It’s a means to an end, a way to get to a web service, rather than an actual computing choice.

    Chris Breen needs to feed his kids, so it’s unlikely that the MacWorld staff is going to hang it up any time soon. Until they do, though, the content is going to get worse in quality while they whore out as much of themselves as they can to what’s left of the commercial market, in order to simply stay afloat.

    My thoughts, anyway.


  2. Hey AJH. Thanks for your thoughts and for commenting but I wanted to make one thing clear.

    You mention Chris Breen (personal disclosure: friend of mine) and say, “…the content is going to get worse in quality while they whore out as much of themselves as they can…”

    While I agree with the statement, everyone should know that the writing and editorial staff of Macworld (many of whom have contacted me anonymously after I wrote this piece) all want to make sure people know *they* have nothing to do with these “sponsored posts” and hate them as much as the readership does.

    If anyone is to be held accountable from the editorial side for these, it should be Jason Snell, the Editorial director for Macworld/TechHive/PCWorld. It’s the sales and marketing departments that have foisted these fake stories on to the web site.

    1. Using Breen was probably a bad choice on my part, and I’ll take that back. I used the name because he was the only person I could remember from the magazine, and I used him to enclose most of the staff, which of course is neither fair to him nor the rest of the staff that are really trying. So I withdraw that bit of the comment.

      While I have no doubt that the staff — primarily those that’ve been there for a while — are trying to keep it relevant, my point was that most of what the magazine was useful for, in its heyday, it is no longer useful for. You mention specifically the ads and sponsored posts: as fewer people actually read the magazine, it has to use these as a means to an end simply to continue existing.

      There’s a newspaper published near me that used to be the largest paper in the area. People get their information differently these days, though, and in trying to stay in business, it has gone from being a well-written, successful newspaper to a collection of advertisements for local businesses, with a couple of poorly-written articles strewn about to fill space… and that is what I see MacWorld turning into. I saw an article on there the other day, in fact, that reflects that and, looking back at it now, I notice that it, too, was written under the IDG Creative Lab flag. This is the link to that article, which isn’t even focused on Macs (it suggests removing your laptop battery while at your desk… that might be difficult to do with my three-year-old MacBook Pro’s built-in battery):

      Again, as long as the magazine continues to follow the path it’s been on, it’ll continue to devolve into this sort of thing simply in an effort to remain existent… which is a sad way to watch a magazine that I used to buy with excited anticipation, eventually wither and die.


      1. “my point was that most of what the magazine was useful for, in its heyday, it is no longer useful for.”

        I would tend to agree with your point.

        I saw that story you mentioned about “How to extend the life of your devices” and thought it was oddly out of place. But now that you mention it and I look at it again, it turns out, it’s a (far too subtle – in a VERY sneaky way) advertisement for The Worth Ave. Group – a company that provides insurance for electronics.

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