Bubble-Era Mag Industry Standard Rises Again

The Industry Standard, one of the dot-com era’s most prominent magazines, relaunched on Monday as a Web-only, community-driven Web site.

The property, originally owned by Standard Media, is now run by the Boston-based IDC, a 44-year old information technology research firm. The site will consist of news and analysis from outside contributors and profiles of prominent people in the technology sector.

However, the site also offers users the opportunity to participate in its predictive market, which allows users to make bets based upon specific predictions such as which quarter Apple will ship 10 million iPhones or when a company’s stock price will fall.

Tapping the Crowd

The predictive market idea came into public favor after the publication of James Surowiecki’s book The Wisdom of Crowds, which argued that large groups of people can — under the right circumstance — more accurately predict certain outcomes based on a collective intelligence.

The interactive component comes at a time when traditional media companies are struggling to find ways to engage readers. For The Industry Standard and its parent company, the predictive market does more than that. It potentially offers insight into the collective wisdom of its readers.

“The prediction market is a natural complement to our diverse set of editorial voices, with each playing off the other to help readers get real insight into the online economy,” said Derek Butcher, the Industry Standard’s vice president and general manager.

Lesson to Learn

The Industry Standard originally launched as a magazine in 1998, just as the Internet dot-com boom was getting started. The magazine grew by leaps and bounds, both in terms of subscribers and advertisers. In 2000, the magazine sold 7,558 advertising pages, a staggering figure that placed it among the top 20 revenue-generating publications at the time.

However, the economic crash in 2001 hit the magazine hard and fast. Within a year, the magazine dropped from a high of 300 pages to a low of 90 pages before shuttering in August 2001.

The publication’s relaunch comes at a time when old media companies are trying to figure out how to modernize their sites, a task at which many media entities have failed, said Chris Ariens, executive producer for Mediabistro.com, a networking and training company for media professionals.

The inclusion of the predictive market, while not a sure-fire success is a step that other companies should look towards, noted Ariens.

“Traditional media companies are going to lose people who are used to participating and contributing on sites,” Ariens told the E-Commerce Times. “Users are already beginning to ask themselves why not go to Digg, Newsvine or the Industry Standard where they can participate.”

The Barriers to Success

However, success with interactive media takes more than simply opening up the doors for readers to participate, said Rob “CmdrTaco” Malda, founder of the technology news site Slashdot. Companies need to actively listen to the users, and most importantly, be open and honest with the motivations for decisions that affect them.

The reason: Once people begin to contribute, they expect a certain level of ownership for their work, Malda told the E-Commerce Times.

There’s no magic solution for success with social media. There’s a continuum that all companies must find a way to navigate, Malda said. Whether they create totally original content or solicit user-created content, the most successful modern media companies face the same problems that old media companies face: quality control.

“The obstacles that they face will be getting quality original content,” Malda said. “It’s really no different than any other publication. Just asking your readers to write it for you doesn’t make it magically happen.”

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