SQL Server Magazine’s Publisher Files Bankruptcy


Penton Media publishes several IT-related magazines including SQL Server Magazine and Windows IT Pro, and is involved with the DevConnections conference.  They announced that they’re filing Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which means they pay back a portion of their debt and the rest is erased.  BtoB Media reports that Penton’s revenue fell about 26% last year.

A few of us were talking about this at the MVP Summit today in Redmond, and we reminisced about the times when we got all of our industry knowledge through magazines.  I remember learning about industry news like new SQL versions through SQL Server Magazine and devouring it from cover to cover each time it arrived in my cubicle.  These days, I usually get the breaking news through blogs, but I think I’m in the minority.  Most SQL Server professionals don’t read blogs.

I think there’s still a place for real journalism. I subscribe to the Wall Street Journal because I get a lot of well-researched, well-written content out of it each morning.  I subscribe to car magazines Automobile and Car & Driver because they have really entertaining columnists with decades of industry experience.  A well-done magazine or newspaper offers something I’m willing to pay for.  On the other hand, the Chicago Tribune is having a tougher time winning me over; I hit their free online edition daily, but it’s a rare day that I click through to an underlying story.

Penton Media expects to exit bankruptcy in 30 days, and I hope they emerge with the strength to produce consistently great content makes SQL Server professionals get out their wallets.

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15 Comments. Leave new

  • The Press Release and some of the internal stuff I’ve heard about the bankruptcy filings would indicate that this is a good thing. Specifically, Penton Media is just restructuring their debt.

    That, and they’re a huge company – covering things from model train publications on up to SQL Server Magazine.

    Everything I’ve heard from the Editors of SQL Mag and DevConnections Mag indicate that they’re doing very well financially. (And… a good indicator of that is how thick the magazines are. As the thickness goes down, that’s when it’s time to worry.)

  • Michael, unfortunately, as the thickness *has* gone down (I don’t count the DevConnections insert, or the other on-page ads, as part of the content), I find it harder to justify my subscription. Grab a copy of your magazine from even three years ago – if you look at the number of articles and the number of real non-fluff pages and compare that to one of today’s issues you will wonder why the price hasn’t gone down. I love the magazine but as the meat gets thinner and thinner it becomes less of a good buuy.

  • We don’t read blogs? Does this one count?

  • First, I don’t understand why SQL Professionals in general aren’t reading blogs. It’s free training. For that matter, I don’t understand why they don’t take advantage of other free opportunities to learn such as local user groups or the Quest broadcasts.

    However, I think it’s important to note that “last gen” methods of information dissemination are failing rapidly. Books, magazines, newspapers are all dropping in revenue and I think that in the next decade the “players” left standing will be very few.

    It reminds me of the good old days when a million different companies were making computers and advertising in Computer Shopper. That magazine was a behemoth and I read it cover to cover. Back in the 80’s and 90’s it was over 800 pages of geek pr0n.

    However, over the years the vast majority of the computer makers went out of business and we have only a few major players today. Computer Shopper ceased publishing last year after dwindling down a tiny fraction of it’s original size.

    As we turn more and more to the internet, and experts such as Brent, Randall, Fritchey, Bertrand, et al are giving away more and more free content, why should I pay for a magazine? As Brent eluded to, unless a magazine offers something I cannot get free on the net, there’s no point.

  • I have received a free 1-year subscription of the Digital edition of SQL Server Magazine. I am not really finding content that are not readily available free in blogs. This is the reason why I did not subscribe for the print magazine or extend my current (free) digital subscription.

  • Most SQL Server professionals don’t read blogs.

    I agree with that statement. A friend of mine – whose job is to sell SQL Server licenses – he and I compared names of people we know with very very little overlap.

    Most SQL Professionals are Blog lurkers at best. They’ll Google an error message and follow the link if it seems to fit their search criteria. (If you’re an active blogger, just look at traffic sources on your web site. I’m betting search engines account for the majority)

    That type is the silent majority. And we can’t poll them (by definition… If they take a poll, they’re no longer lurking are they?)

  • About the “Most SQL Server professionals don’t read blogs” line – when I speak at user groups and conferences, I sometimes ask who reads blogs, and which blogs are their most favorites. The vast, vast majority don’t read blogs – and this is the group of people who are active enough to come to their local user group! A couple of months ago at a big user group meeting, two people asked what PASS was. AND THIS WAS A PASS USER GROUP! It’s amazing.

  • Malathi Mahadevan
    February 18, 2010 3:49 pm

    Brent, i can speak for the comment those who don’t know PASS. I have a few in my group itself, I take pains to expand the abbreviation on every group post I send to them and if I ever get lazy around that someone will be asking me ‘what is it?’. They do know Ineta and Culimnis tho, atleast more than they know PASS. Perhaps it a publicity thing, don’t really know.I am working on getting a banner sometime to put up at each meeting so that atleast the symbol will stick in their minds.

  • Kelly Martinez
    February 18, 2010 9:49 pm

    I agree with David’s comment with blogs as free training. I know though for me it’s a matter of finding the time to actually read them and balance that with work and family life. Maybe that’s why most don’t read them? Plus I think it’s about finding the right ones for your interest which takes a bit of work by itself.

    I had a subscription to SQL Server magazine but it has become more ads than content and I dropped it. As a relative noob to the SQL community I’m finding all the blogs and training a bit overwhelming, but the resources are excellent.

    As to Penton Media I had the opportunity to take a job with them a few years ago as a developer here in Colorado and I’m kinda glad I didn’t now.

  • I’m sorry to hear of SQL Server magazine’s parent company filing chapter 11. Of course people will try to put a happy face on it, but when you can’t pay your creditors – that’s not a sign of a vibrant business model (sadly, I say this from experience as a failed entrepreneur).

    I think that in Corporate America btw the late 90’s and 2008, times have been pretty good in IT and getting a decent job was not unlike shooting fish in a barrel. It has been my observation that many IT pros in Corporate IT didn’t pursue training because they did not see the need.

    Having run the Philly SQL UG I can say that I saw many consultants and upwardly mobile IT Pros participating in the SQL community to primarily network. This is a good and necessary activity for our ecosystem. Of course there are also early adopters and stellar IT pros who are passionate and driven to mastery, expertise. The latter are the group who were first producing and consuming blogs, podcasts, IPTV, twitter, etc.

    Anything that produces change (the internet, blogs, twitter) and is on the bleeding edge is always seen initially as a threat to IT. I have worked at some of the worlds top companies and have been shocked (although now I find it funny, unfortunately…maybe I’m getting cynical…) to learn that (throughout the years): my MSDN portal was blocked by company web surfing policies, blogs by the SQL team were blocked by Corporate IT, top SQL expert’s blogs were blocked by IT).

    When you have to use your personal PDA to read a blog at work, you have bigger challenges than deciding how best to learn. The comic strip “Dilbert” and the movie “Office Space” aren’t hits in IT without a reason.

    I think as opportunity decreases in IT and globalization and the cloud increase wage pressure in our field, evolutionary forces will compel more IT pros to blogs and twitter out of need and the obvious advantages provided by new media will make them essential to any serious IT pro.

  • Tripp Southern
    February 23, 2010 9:45 pm

    I’ve subscribed to SQL Server Magazine for years now. In fact, I just renewed using the three year option last fall. Of course, my company reimburses me for it, but even if they didn’t I’d still pay for it myself just to get Kevin Kline’s Free SQL Server Tools column.

    Their online content is nice too. I like the way that each article has a numeric code that that can be used to download any scripts used by the author. While there are months that the only thing that interests me is Kevin’s column, there are plenty of other issues in which I find a clear and concise gem of an article on some subject that I’d previously thought I’d never want/need/have to learn anything about.

    • Tripp – I agree, Kevin does a great job on his columns. Did you know you can get more of his writing at his blog site for free? It’s here:


      I like how he gives away some of his writing for free, but keeps some good stuff for SQLMag.com as an exclusive. That way he helps SQLMag succeed. That kind of content balance is what it’ll take for paid magazines to succeed.

      I stopped subscribing to a lot of tech magazines because I’ve got an overwhelming amount of free content in blogs that I can barely keep up with. I hope SQL Server Magazine succeeds though.

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