Mac UK

Interview with MacUser's Ian Betteridge, Part 2

Dirk Pilat - 2002.03.07

This is the second (and more interesting) part of my interview with the incredibly friendly new editor of MacUser UK, Ian Betteridge.

DP: Now for the crucial question: How do you see the Mac press - and especially MacUser - react to the competition of Internet content? Is there any reason for me to buy MacUser if I can get all the content I want on my desktop?

IB: No magazine is able to compete with the immediateness that the Internet delivers: We recognize that by presenting the news differently on our website from how we deliver it in our magazine. While a news item will have 200-400 words in our magazine, it will only have 25 words on our website. What you want from a website are the facts, for example: "Adobe has released InDesign 2.0". Bang!

What we do in our magazine is to add depth to it, asking questions like: Are they actually going to be able to make a dent into Quark's market? Talk to design bureaus: Do you have InDesign? Do you know anybody who uses InDesign? You talk to analysts: Are there any chances that Adobe can pull this of? Then you put all these bits together and have a story that has both the facts and the depth, so you can gain a perspective of what's actually going on. For you as a reader who is thinking about switching to InDesign this will give you an idea of what's happening in the industry. Website editors usually don't have the time or resources to do this well enough. What magazines do well is to provide depth; what websites do well is provide immediateness.

It's the same with help-sections and tutorials: It just doesn't work as well online. You sit in front of your computer trying to sort something while you are trying to read the how-to on the same computer, while with a magazine you actually have it right in front of you. That's one of the primary areas where magazines will always do better than websites, just because of the limitations of the media. You will see that magazines in general are shifting their focus to providing more depth as time goes on. If you look at MacMinute, you will a perfect example of how to get news on the Web just right, because it gives you an overview over the day's news in a form that you can read in three seconds and is updated as it happens.

DP: Why not follow the road Wired took and broaden your appeal by providing more investigative and larger features?

IB: The problems with these stories is that they cost a lot of money, and you will have to ask yourself how many ads can I sell on the back of that, and the answer is: never enough.

Another good thing about print is that you get it on your desk every fortnight or month, and at the end of the month it will still be there for you to read if you didn't come around to it before...

DP: ...and you can read it in the bathtub!

IB: Yeah! Big Bonus. Seriously Big Bonus! I have an hour's train ride every morning on the way to work. What do I read on the train? I read a magazine, just like everybody else, unless they are working on something, in which case they are using a laptop (hopefully a Mac).

DP: I have been counting OS X stories on Slashdot and was surprised that they actually exceed the number of stories on Debian, Ximian, and Java. Do you think that the readership of MacUser will diversify and get more geek readers?

IB: Absolutely. Definitely. If you look at the fact that you can get the source code for a Unix application, compile that, and it will run on OS X with X-Windows, this is just unbelievably cool and technologically very seductive. It's not Microsoft. All the basics of OS X are open source, and it's good for the Apple community, and we are already starting to feature command-line based tutorials in our how-to section. The other thing is the number of small, new, and cool applications coming out...

DP: ...like Watson or Slashdock.

IB: Yeah, how cool is that.

DP: Okay, now give me an outlook on the near future of life, the universe, and everything Mac - but "42" alone doesn't count.

IB: Apple has a potentially great future ahead.

DP: Don't you mean "insanely" great future?

IB: No, no, too retro. I'm sure Steve Jobs doesn't say that anymore. He probably just says "neat" a lot. They've got a lot iMacof new potential customers out there, especially the new iMac is so seductive, they will sell them faster then they can make them. The iPod will bring new customers to Apple because it's such a cool gadget.

DP: One last thing: What's after Jobs?

IB: Surely you don't think for a second that there is life after Jobs?

DP: Well, I contemplate it every time I see a bloody keynote speech: Every time Jobs screws something up I think: That's it. He's got Alzheimer's.

IB: I don't think we have to worry about that for a good ten years.

DP: What? A sixty-year-old Jobs jumping up and down the stage?

IB: Think about it: Is he still energetic enough? Does he still care about the company and the product?

DP: Is he still choleric enough?

IB: Can he still talk? He might hand on some things to other people, but I don't think he sees his work done yet. He will only hand the company on if he thinks it doesn't get any better, and at the moment he's still far away from that

DP: Ian, thanks a million for your time. LEM

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