The demise of CPU magazine – a cautionary tale

On December 7th, 2017 I received an email from my contact at CPU Magazine that the December issue would be their last. I wasn’t entirely sure, but I assumed it just meant they were no longer producing the physically printed copy. However, as I thought more about it I realized how little attention their various social media accounts were getting. I was about the only person to ever share or like their Twitter and Facebook posts. It seemed like I was the only one paying attention. Today, January 15th 2018, I decided to check on things. There have been no tweets or Facebook posts since the middle of December. I went to their website, and there on the front page, dated January 12th, was their goodbye. No more CPU Magazine. They’ve officially rode off into the sunset. This got me to thinking. How does this happen to an organization which caters to a crowd that has probably never been larger? PC gaming is huge. People are still building and modding PCs. I just really didn’t get it.

Then I thought back to those lonely tweets with only 1 or 2 ‘likes’, and the Facebook posts with only a couple of comments. Why did this seemingly large, relevant audience quit paying attention? I tried to answer that question at lunch today with a coworker in his early 20’s. He readily admits that he finds it hard to pick up a magazine and read it, and this applies to articles on websites as well. How then, I asked, had he managed to learn his PC building skills? Or where does he go for information about products? The answer didn’t surprise me. Predominantly it is Youtube. I guess that makes sense. Why search the internet for articles on overclocking or PC building when you can just go to Youtube and find a video where someone walks you through step-by-step. Another answer was only slightly less surprising; Facebook user groups. I run one of these myself, and they’re usually great places to get answers. I think they’re analogous to the old user forums, but with a more social aspect to them.

Let’s get back to CPU magazine. They still had relevant content as far as I was concerned. But then again, I’m a 44 year old PC enthusiast who still likes things done like they were about 20 years ago. In 2018, what is ‘relevant’ content? I think this is one area they couldn’t quite figure out. I loved their commitment to the LAN party community, and I even appeared in 2 issues of the magazine. However, this community is fragmented, and a very small portion of the overall PC gaming audience. Most knowledge within the community can be characterized as tribal, and is passed down along the way. Esports? I think CPU Magazine really missed the boat on this one. Pure and simple. I guess they just never expected it to explode like it has. I’m still puzzled at their lack of attention to esports. The last thing I’ll mention is advertisements. It used to be you could tell right away what were the ads and what were the articles in a magazine. At some point along the way, CPU Magazine blurred these lines. I suppose it was a veiled attempt to increase ad revenue while appearing to not have an increased number of ads in the magazine. I’ll have to say there is nothing appealing about getting 3/4 of the way finished with a full page ‘article’ only to find out the whole thing was actually just a product advertisement. If objective information is hidden like a needle in a haystack within your publication’s pages then I’m probably going to start to look elsewhere.

The point with all of this is that there is a changing of the guard when it comes to how information is consumed. Much of this is being advanced by the millennial generation, and the rest of us are just innocent bystanders. Never-the-less, we’re still partners in crime whether we like it or not. This whole article and epiphany, so to speak, has been a bit cathartic to me. As I determine what I want to do with eDrenaline, it’s become apparent what I SHOULDN’T try to do. The path forward has become much clearer, and I think I’ll have more news to share in the coming weeks. Thanks for reading. I’d love to hear feedback.