Why I stopped reading most computer magazines

Martin Brinkmann
Mar 10, 2013
Updated • Mar 10, 2013

Back in the early days of computing, magazines were one of the only sources of information about new software, games, trends and hardware. While you had your friends who sometimes know about things to come, and the BBS system if you had access to an expensive modem that was nearly as slow as sending the data via snail mail, there was not really a way around magazines at that time.

Magazines back then provided us with information that we were interested in and had a hard time coming by in any other fashion. While they surely were not of better quality than the magazines today, they had the advantage that they were one of the only sources for people interested in computers. Today, magazines face the same problem that newspapers face: they have new competition in form of the Internet.

Computer magazines had their purpose back in the days but today and in their current format, they do not really serve that purpose anymore.

  • Their contents are usually out of date when the magazine comes out. Most come out monthly which means that you may end up with information that you read about a month ago or even earlier elsewhere. It does not make sense to write about a security vulnerability or phishing attack that came out a a week ago or even earlier than that as it is old news.
  • The majority of contents they include are available on thousands of Internet sites as well. I do not really need a magazine anymore to tell me that a new program came just out when in fact it has been out for a while and reviewed on dozens of Internet sites already.
  • Most magazines do not offer exclusive contents, like well researched articles that offer insights that you do not find anywhere online. Instead, they tend to post the very same line of articles over and over again. In Germany, every computer magazine seems to run a monthly "the ultimate USB drive" article that no one seems to be interested in anymore because it has been posted that often.
  • They can't make direct use of the Internet. When I post a review, I can add a link to the developer website directly to it so that it does take a click to go there and download the program.

I suppose there is still room for magazines out there, but when it comes to that, it is usually the specialized magazines I'm interested in and not the mainstream tech magazines or game magazines.

What about you? Do you still read computer magazines? If so, which do you read? If not, what is your reason for not doing so?


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  1. Othniel said on March 19, 2013 at 3:35 am

    I too had stopped computer magazine for the same reasons you stated above. Magazines I subscribed that are computer related are Advanced Photoshop, Linux Journal and also a few more technical ones, this helps me getting new insight and edge at my workplace, I get the digital copy :)

    But I do get local magazine (Malaysia) cheaper.

  2. Howard said on March 17, 2013 at 8:36 pm

    I am an avid reader of The Linux Journal, and have been since 1998. The switch to all digital editions only enhanced my options for reading this fine magazine. It isn’t so much the “new software” that I’m interested in, it is the opinions of the writers AND the plain ordinary folk that write in. I have been a Linux user for over 14 years now, and have worked in it professionally for well over a decade. I still learn something new every month, when the Linux Journal comes out.

  3. damaged said on March 11, 2013 at 3:35 pm

    like others, had the bumpy ride with Maximum PC, then got like two years of a SPAM magazine I forget the name now. Wired?? however, I still pickup several magazines when they have debian on the DVD, Linux Format is good for this, I had trouble with linux pro telling me I could do “E” desktop, and it wasn’t anything like it, the information was long since gone and the developer said, shouldn’t always trust those magazines, SO I had a taste back then of bad stuff (TM) but I still buy mags with debian on it. I also used to get sysadmin but it disappeared with the shut down of my favorite B&N.

  4. David said on March 11, 2013 at 11:46 am

    For years I subscribed to Maximum PC (beginning when it was called Boot) and eagerly waited for each issue to get my tech ‘fix’. But, I let the subscription lapse about 4 or 5 years ago for the reasons you listed. I now I visit their website at least once a week, but this site generally has the new news before them. I still like their How To Do articles and Top Tech lists.

  5. Coyote said on March 11, 2013 at 10:28 am

    I havn’t read a magazine (outside of a doctors office) in probably more than a decade. Used to have subs to PC Gamer, Omni, Nintendo Power and several others but they all went under or started doing the worst thing possible…

    Advertisements, PC gamer was the worst as it went from a 150+ page publication with 2/3 good content and a demo disc (with hidden easter eggs and even more content!) to 90% adverts no CD and very little spirit in their writing. Irregardless I canceled it the day they went below 75 pages (that’s content AND advertising). And ny that time the games had outgrown CD’s and they didn’t seem to want to expand to DVD or even an online service.

    BTW I still have the floppy for train tycoon.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on March 11, 2013 at 10:45 am

      But do you also have a floppy drive?

      1. Coyote said on March 12, 2013 at 10:36 am

        HA! I do actually. An old dell USB external shoved in a laptop bag somewhere.

        And actually thinking back the thing I miss the most about PC Ggamer is the exclusives, demos and games you couldn’t find online.

  6. Henry said on March 11, 2013 at 9:31 am

    Will occasionally read one of the mags not so much for content as to read/review the ads to see who is pushing what.

  7. kalmly said on March 11, 2013 at 9:13 am

    I used to love computer mags. I subscribed to one of them until 2010. You’re right about being able to get all the tech information anyone could want on the internet, but that is changing for me, too. Phones, tablets, and other electronic gadgets have made a huge difference in the content available. Tech sites, such as this one, have a much wider range of subjects to cover. Me, I’m only interested in desktop computing and software. I used to spend a couple of hours a day online, digging through tech sites. Now it’s 30 minutes or less because there’s so little to interest me.

    Now, if I were a rich lady, I’d have a few gadgets, too, but maybe it’s just as well I’m not. I’d never get any work done.

    I notice is that as time moves on and people take up the tiny computer habit (oh, yeah, and the cloud), tech sites are floundering and disappearing altogether. I wonder why that is.

  8. Saxeine said on March 11, 2013 at 4:18 am

    I used to an ardent customer of uk photoshop arts, music and computer shopper, but now i read them from usenet.Would never pay for one again , I dont see why i should pay for advertisments which fill 50% of the mag.Publishersneed o sell relevent software and give the mag away for free…they just dontvseem tobget it.

    1. Lindsay said on March 11, 2013 at 5:13 am

      If you don’t want to pay for the magazine that’s fine. Don’t pay for it.

      That doesn’t justify copyright infringement.

  9. Crodol said on March 11, 2013 at 2:40 am

    I read occasionally the really good “c’t Magazin” (http://www.heise.de/ct/), they always have interesting articles.

  10. Lindsay said on March 10, 2013 at 8:09 pm

    I haven’t bought a computer magazine since last millennium, during the 3dfx Voodoo2 hype. I think I’ve still got it around here somewhere. I’ve certainly still got the Voodoo2s…

    1. Lindsay said on March 11, 2013 at 4:54 am

      I should also note that it’s not just computer magazines that are becoming irrelevant.

      I recently cancelled my subscription to New Scientist, after 15 years, partly because the front page was becoming filled with over-hyped nonsense (e.g. “Darwin was Wrong!”, “Einstein was Wrong!” etc.), while the writing and credibility was becoming as bad as the internet tech tabloids like gizmodo and wired.

  11. Gonzo said on March 10, 2013 at 7:15 pm

    The last computer mag I bought was CPU (Computer Power User) back in ~2005. I don’t buy any mags at all anymore. The internet is easier to reference, up to date and offers a wider variety of opinion.

    I’ve sworn off most computer book publishers too. O’Reilly is about the only one left that I’ll buy. I’m tired of paying for a 1000 pages of anecdotal nonsense with only 20 pages of valuable info.

  12. Richard Steven Hack said on March 11, 2013 at 12:02 am

    I agree that virtually all of my computer NEWS now comes from the Net. Computer magazines might as well dump computer NEWS from their contents because it’s always out of date – even for weekly trade journals.

    I DO download computer magazines from Usenet and elsewhere and save them for eventual reading and reference as there may be useful articles that aren’t necessarily going to be on the Internet or at least not as easily found. Periodically I go through and delete the oldest ones once I’ve scanned them for useful articles.

  13. rickxs said on March 10, 2013 at 6:57 pm

    PC Ghacks :)

  14. Davin Peterson said on March 10, 2013 at 6:10 pm

    What is the point of subscribing to them, when by the time they reach your mailbox, they are outdated? Also, with the internet, I can just read tech blogs online. So, I stop subscribing to them years ago

  15. Nebulus said on March 10, 2013 at 4:32 pm

    “Duplicate comment detected; it looks as though you’ve already said that!”. Then why isn’t my comment displayed? Martin, any ideas? :)

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on March 10, 2013 at 4:48 pm

      It is there ;)

      1. Nebulus said on March 10, 2013 at 6:39 pm

        Thank you very much! :)

  16. Nebulus said on March 10, 2013 at 4:30 pm

    I buy a gaming magazine almost every month. It is the last one remaining in my country and it struggles to survive. It has pretty good reviews, and sometimes they publish a full game that interests me. But above all, maybe it’s because I’d like to see them survive and I want to help them do that. It is very good to have an alternative to the internet reviews about games, and it would be sad to see that alternative choice going away forever.

  17. Maou said on March 10, 2013 at 4:09 pm

    I only buy books (printed).
    Who need mags when you have Ghacks? :)

  18. Anonymous said on March 10, 2013 at 4:01 pm

    I don’t read too many computer magazines anymore…hardcopy or online, I find the information is repeated from one magazine to magazine. I used to read Information Week, but some of the articles are so biased toward one company or another, I finally gave up. I like to read the facts, not the writers opinions. Network World too, not so much. I do like this site…information and URL’s.

  19. ProNoob said on March 10, 2013 at 3:54 pm

    I do buy a gaming or a computer magazine now and then, because they have an article or two that really interests me. I simply judge the magazine rack by it’s cover, and buy a mag if it looks interesting enough.

  20. tinwheeler said on March 10, 2013 at 3:54 pm

    Who needs mags when you have ghacks. I have always loved the tactile sensation of magazines but haven’t used a computer mag since Win 95. After that everything was freely available on the net. Even though a lot of the comp. mags then were free or almost free, they became redundant very quickly.

  21. Wayfarer said on March 10, 2013 at 3:51 pm

    Years since I bought a magazine or newspaper. Amazes me any of them have survived. Here in the UK, the prices are just shocking – I can buy a decent novel (at Amazon prices) for less than some magazines with hardly a half-hour’s reading in them. Compared with internet sources, most of the material is out of date before the magazine hits the shelves.

    On top of that, over 20 years or so, most magazines (of any persuasion – computing, photography, crafts/hobbies, etc) have degenerated from how-to-do-it to what’s-cool-to-buy. I’m a keen woodworker and most (UK) magazines have gone the same way as PC magazines – barely more than advertisers’ catalogues.

    I still leaf through the odd magazine when I’m in a stationers or supermarket, but I can’t recall the last time I was even minimally tempted to fork out the outrageous prices for so little up-to-date substance.

    That said, that pretty much goes for most magazines these days. If it’s informative (and by that I mean not lifestyle/celebrity rubbish) you’re probably better off on the net.

  22. Transcontinental said on March 10, 2013 at 3:05 pm

    Back in the eighties I wouldn’t miss one issue of Compute! magazine. Commodore 128 then. I hit the Internet in 2000, before that press was the only source of information.
    Here in France computer magazines’ contents seem to target mainly new users of computers and those discovering the Internet with classical topics on security, speed, but also a trend on high-tech devices (most of the time in a rather sophisticated way).
    I haven’t bought whatever newspaper or magazine since years !

  23. Jim said on March 10, 2013 at 2:59 pm

    I still read CPU Magazine. Mainly because its free and I can pick it up at the local Micro Center. It’s nice to have around just to peek at when I’m bored. I also get the digital version to carry on my phone for when I’m out at a doctors office. Other than that I cant see any use for reading computer magazines for the same reasons you give. I haven’t paid for one in over 5 years. I have to admit that it’s still better reading than Home and Garden at the doctors office:)

  24. JohnMWhite said on March 10, 2013 at 1:52 pm

    In US magazines in general, advertising is utterly out of control. I’ve flicked through magazines that have been at least 60% commercials. I’m not paying $6 (minimum – a lot of mags are 9 or 10, I’ve seen some for 12) to be aggressively advertised to. There’s usually very little worthwhile information anyway, and even the freebie DVDs that come with many computer or gaming magazines only contain an apparently random selection of stuff that you could get online easily. I’m not really sure who magazines are trying to appeal to, because there seems to be little about them that would appeal to anyone. At best, they’re useful for killing time while travelling, but they’re so expensive that it’s not really worth grabbing a couple for reading in an airport terminal.

    I like print, and I hate to just condemn it because electronic media does have numerous advantages that make the contest essentially unfair, but magazine publishers really don’t seem interested in adapting. I can’t remember the last time I saw a magazine I even wanted to read.

  25. Jojo said on March 10, 2013 at 1:46 pm

    I read PC World. It’s worth it for maybe $5/year or free on those discount subscriptions.

    What a mag does is bring together a lot of info in one place. Sure, all this info is available on the net (somewhere), but in a mag, I don’t have to go searching for it. And I can read it at dinner and not worry about spitting/spilling food on it! :)

    Also, a mag like PC World isn’t just about PC’s. They also cover phones, phone apps, tablets, etc.

  26. Alan said on March 10, 2013 at 1:45 pm

    I still like to read most of the magazines, even though they are repeating some of the same information. I don’t always have enough time some days, and the information get forgotten, but a month or two later and there it is again (maybe just my bad memory :) ).

    Have a Good Day !

  27. kiiutu said on March 10, 2013 at 1:40 pm

    Completely agree. Stupidly i still impulse buy the odd tech mag off the shelf, and then either never read it, or wonder why i bought it after i have, all for the reasons you’ve listed.

  28. rpwheeler said on March 10, 2013 at 1:20 pm

    Stopped to read them long time ago (12 years or so), basically for the same reasons as yours. The information I need is available on Internet sites, and I don’t need to pay for printing and delivering of it with ~30% printed ads overhead.

    And yes, some specialized magazines can be interesting for me, but not general ones.

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