Six years ago today, Ziff Davis Enterprise and I parted ways. My earning power has never been the same, in part because of the circumstances affecting my profession, undesirable San Diego, Calif. location, and age (mid-50s, gulp). At the time, I wrote two blogs: Microsoft Watch, which I inherited from the esteemed Mary Jo Foley, and Apple Watch, which I created. Got to wonder: What kind of legal issues would there be if the second blog continued today in context of the Apple smartwatch and the company’s well-publicized tactics for extinguishing anything brand offending.
ZDE laid me off with offer to stay on, in different capacity and 36-percent pay cut. I declined and only occasionally regretted the decision. Groveling commands no respect and is no position from which to advance. My role would be nothing more than a journalist past his prime meeting a 5-story a day quota that would require the kind of news writing that pollutes the web today. The Google free economy is not a sustainable source of revenue for most news sites—more so for those with niche audiences.
ZDE’s flagship then, as I presume now, is eWEEK. Before researching this post, I hadn’t looked at the site in years. Not out of bitterness but boredom. I am not an IT professional, which is the intended readership. If not writing such content, there is no appeal to me. Heartening: My good friend Daryl Taft still works for eWEEK. We first met at CMP, in the late 1990s, when writing for Computer Reseller News. A decade later, we became colleagues again, when I joined the ZDE staff.
Sadness and self-recrimination creep up every April 30—not for being laid off for first and only time in my work career, but for what I later lost. They say the Internet never forgets, but that’s a lie. An urban legend. Sometime following my exit, ZDE purged the two Watch blogs, an act unthinkable. The archive still had historical value, if nothing else. All my writing for three years, much of it content I would still back-reference today, is gone.
Four months ago, I commanded: “Writers, Own Your Content!” You cannot assume that your news gathering will be preserved. I don’t write in Microsoft Word, or any of its competitors. I am a cloud child, inputting directly into whatever online content management system an employer users. Even if I had hard, digital copies of everything posted from 2006-09 and the previous three years (my mid-2000 decade employer was acquired and purged the old blogs), they still wouldn’t be online.
That’s why I started cross-posting with different art and headlines, after, in December 2014, securing permission from BetaNews to do so. Theoretically, Google penalizes such practice, but I don’t give a frak. I don’t write for Google, or for pageviews. I write for people!
The only post I have left from my Microsoft Watch life is “The iPhone Moment“, during the first smartphone’s sales launch. In February 2014, I restored to this site the post with its original June 30, 2007 date. Today, I add one more; for reasons not remembered, I archived the webpage.
My attitude now is the same as then: Audience is everything. I am guilty of abandoning my readership by moving away from focusing on Microsoft. My BetaNews colleagues do a fine job. But as I reflect on Microsoft’s Build conference currently underway, my hope in the company renews. Maybe, just maybe, the old dog can learn new tricks.
Microsoft starts to really get contextual cloud computing, something I warned on the Watch blog in 2007 would be necessary to compete with Google (ah, if only more than excerpts remained). Context is everything: Your stuff available anytime, anywhere, on anything and in any way that you need it. That’s the era we live in 2015. Post-PC is Apple’s little urban legend. Enough of that.
You can stop reading here or click through to my last Microsoft Watch post, “Thank You and Goodbye“, restored today with original post date.
Photo Credit: Anne Wilcox (January 2015)