And so PC World begins its death spiral

Well, the publisher of PC World, Colin Crawford, has finally commented officially on l’Affaire McCracken:

Some of the public reports have suggested that the credibility of PC World editorial is in question and that directions were issued to give favorable coverage to advertisers or to present information in a way that favored specific advertisers.

The reports are not accurate. IDG and I hold editorial integrity in the highest regard. PC World, has not been nor will it be influenced by advisers’ pressure. Independent and trusted editorial is at the heart of everything we do. Serving our readership with fair and unbiased content comes first.

We have and will continue to run editorial and content that both praises and criticizes as appropriate without regard to the vendor relationship.

There is no shift in editorial policy at PC World, editorial integrity remains a core value and this will not change.

The news reports are from multiple sources and appear credible. To simply deny them with a handful of platitudes and not provide a response that contains substance is an insult to your readership.

Apparently, it’s also untrue. Read this update from Kim Zetter at Wired News, which pretty much confirms that the magazine is completely out of control:

After I posted this update I got wind that CEO Colin Crawford was in the midst of a staff meeting that he convened to address the controversy over McCracken’s sudden exit. …

“What it really comes down to,” the source added, “is that Harry wanted autonomy over the editorial content, and Colin is usurping that. Harry always served as a buffer between the business side and the rest of the editors and that’s gone now.”

With regard to whether or not Crawford addressed the issue of asking editors to tone down their negative reviews of vendors, the source said, “He denided that he would ever ask editors to tone down the coverage, but at the same time he said he wants the marketing people to have input on our processes.”

The meeting, which lasted 1 hour and 20 minutes, was ultimately cut short as staff members continued to pepper Crawford with questions. The last question a staff member asked was, will this happen again? Will the next editor-in-chief have last-call on what goes in the magazine or will Crawford, essentially, always be asserting his rank over editors?

“And the answer was no, I’m going to have last call,” the source said Crawford told them. “The response, essentially, was that the same damn thing would happen again (if someone clashed with him).”

I hate stories based on input from a single anonymous source, but in this case the reporting aligns with the facts, which is that a guy who has been editor-in-chief for 13 years resigns with no notice. That’s not the way you settle a disagreement over long-term direction, that’s a hostile takeover. I feel sorry for whoever steps into this job. I’ve worked for guys like this before. It never ends well.

5 thoughts on “And so PC World begins its death spiral

  1. This is to bad. I’ve always enjoyed PC World, but will probably let my subscription run out now.


  2. “He denided that he would ever ask editors to tone down the coverage, but at the same time he said he wants the marketing people to have input on our processes.”

    My stomach turned when I read that. Maybe “curdled” would be a better word.

  3. There’s much, MUCH more to the story than McCracken’s resignation. Kim Zetter has just posted an update. Apparently the Apple hate list was intended only for PC World’s website. It was to be paired with another fluff list; you guessed it: “10 Things We Love About Apple.”

    And if that wasn’t enough, here’s an e-mail I received from a PC World editor:

    “You don’t know the half of it. A top exec editor was laid off two weeks ago (my newsletter and print column editor, in fact); the design honcho, a 22-year vet, was also sent on his way.”

    (NOTE: The statement above is public, as part of an Internet group. Still, e-mail me if you want the editor’s name.)

  4. Well, I won’t be reading PC World anymore. Why would I trust any article when the marketing department has say in the content.

    I really don’t understand the problem that Mr. Crawford has with the piece because PC World has been running matching fluff pieces like this for a few months, i.e. “The ten most annoying gadgets” and the “ten most liked gadgets”. Those are paraphrased titles, but you get the drift.

    What advertiser really takes these pieces seriously?

    This is the being of the end for PC World, especially because the online community is much different today with all the blogs by both full time journalist like you Ed and the everyday person writing off the cuff in a blog.

    Perception is everything….Mr. Crawford has forgotten that.

  5. It will interesting to see which advertisers pull from PC World. The ones that continue will essentially be collaborating with this type of policy. PC World = Fox News? Crawford’s sloganeering dictum sure soundly similar.

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