Four years ago, when I came to Dr. Dobb’s, we had healthy profits and revenue, almost all of it from advertising. Despite our excellent growth on the editorial side, our revenue declined such that today it’s barely 30% of what it was when I started. While some of this drop is undoubtedly due to turnover in our sales staff, even if the staff had been stable and executed perfectly, revenue would be much the same and future prospects would surely point to upcoming losses. This is because in the last 18 months, there has been a marked shift in how vendors value website advertising. They’ve come to realize that website ads tend to be less effective than they once were. Given that I’ve never bought a single item by clicking on an ad on a website, this conclusion seems correct in the small.
So vendors have redeployed their advertising dollars into more fruitful options. This is not a Dr. Dobb’s-only phenomenon. Our direct competitors, BZ Media (parent of SD Times) and c4Media (InfoQ), are experiencing the same pressures. They have responded by putting on small conferences, which generate much of their revenue. Dr. Dobb’s could do the same, but for the fact that our parent company is geared to large tradeshows, rather that many small events. (It owns Black Hat and Interop, among many other events.) Unfortunately, the software market today is so highly segmented that aside from vendor-sponsored events (JavaOne, Google IO, etc.), most successful programmer conferences are small, often very small. UBM argues (correctly, I believe): Why should we tie up resources starting a series of niche events that are unlikely to grow much, when we could put all that time, effort, and management attention into the bigger tradeshows and move the revenue up more quickly? The logic is unassailable.
So rather than continue with Dr. Dobb’s until it actually loses money, they’ve decided to sunset the site — a sudden end to remarkably robust and wondrous journey that began 38 years ag