Some of you may have a similar feeling when you find out that they have torn down your old childhood school, or when you see a picture of your old flame; there are a lot of happy memories, and everything turned out okay, but what was and could have been are a bit sad nonetheless now that they're gone. I have been really touched and a bit overwhelmed at the outpouring of well-wishes and memories from our readers, Twitter followers, FB buddies, fellow Apple-centric sites, and others around the world, and like you I wish things had turned out differently, but the feedback has made a bad week better.
I did two tours of duty here at MacNN
: the first one fresh out of journalism school, from 1999 until sometime in 2001, and then what almost reached six years here -- from September 2010 until now. This gives me an interesting perspective on how things have changed across the 21-year history here. So many of you have mentioned that MacNN
was a homepage or regular bookmark, visited at least once a day or often several times a day -- and you've been with us since around the time I first joined.
This is truly flattering -- not much else in our lives has consistently held our interest for 20 years, let's be honest -- but it wasn't surprising: I was one of you. Before I ever worked here, I voraciously consumed all the early Mac news sites, back when such information was difficult to find, and a forum of helpful souls was vital to fully understanding this underdog Mac platform we all intuitively understood was better, even though the mainstream ignored us. We were the few (then), the proud, the true believers.
I was first hired by our founder, Monish Bhatia, to help cover one of the Macworld conventions: I'm pretty sure it was the 1999 NYC one, but the memory grows fuzzy. My "payment" was in equipment: first a "tangerine" iBook -- what was I thinking?
-- and later a far more dignified Graphite SE one. I sold the first to one a friend who ran beauty pageants and just raved over it, the second I gave to another friend who still has it (and while no longer on active duty, it still works). Back then, just as now, this wasn't a job you clocked in and out of: it was a job you married. If I ever sent Payroll an actual accounting of the hours some of us work around here, they'd have gone bust years ago.
During that first run, I met many of the original crew of MacNN
, because back in those days we all went to the Macworld conventions twice a year. These were the boom years, and even though there were a lot of great Mac sites at the time -- like MacCentral
, where I also (later) worked -- and great magazines (yup, wrote for all of them at one time or another as well), a lot of our long-time readers climbed on the MacNN
bandwagon around 1999, and a whole lot of you never got off, judging from the comments. Bless you all.
Me, working for Apple in 2002 after I left MacNN the first time
When I came back to the place in 2010, things were quite different. There was a lot less money, and no more group outings -- indeed, almost nobody on the staff had ever met each other (except of course for Jon and Roger Fingas, what with their shared parents and everything). I got re-hired because Monish knew me and liked my writing style, I was already "housebroken" to Associated Press rules (since I'd been working as a freelance journalist off and on during the previous decade), and because I had just moved to Canada and really needed a job. The staff then helped me learn our CMS and house style, and off I went.
There are many memories from across the years, a lot of them around the conventions: staying on the 55th floor at the swank Millennium hotel one year, then sharing a ridiculously tiny room with Shawn King (now best known for his now Your Mac Life
podcast) the next year (that darn dot-com crash happened in the interim); years later, I attended the final
Macworld/iWorld in 2014; running around the show floors, talking all day to developers, and then spending all night writing it all up. Talk about coming full circle.
I re-joined MacNN
in 2010 as just another writer, but I was on a (secret) mission: I wanted to be the editor. We were doing a great job covering everything that was happening, but I thought we needed more house style, more opinion, better reviews, and more ... personality
. When Mike joined a couple of years later, the two of us quickly found a lot of common ground, and our roles both evolved from just "gutting" press releases to take out the hype to, respectively, looking after the business (him) and looking after the content and morale (me). It is a very yin-yang relationship on many levels, and wouldn't have happened without Mike banging down some doors first.
If I had to point to a few highlights, it would start with meeting Steve Jobs in 2000 and -- after getting "the look" for introducing myself as being from the press -- making him and the team laugh with a good joke. I still tell good jokes (and terrible ones too). He stayed in (very terse but occasional) touch, and yes -- I met Woz as well. I was there for the launch of OS X, I was there for the G4 Cube, I was there for the resurrection of Apple. I was in line for the iPhone on day one. When I came back, it was a big pay cut from some of my previous jobs, but it was nonetheless a dream job for me: Apple-centric tech writer and reviewer. That -- and becoming editor -- has been a crowning achievement in my career.
I also congratulate myself every day for pushing to hire William Gallagher; I think we did something really distinctive and true with our series The Feature Thief
and our Pointers
books (which will continue to be available, on iBooks and Kindle -- gotta collect 'em all!); I love our two podcasts, our live event coverage and analysis, the way we handled it when Jobs passed away, the in-depth coverage we gave Apple's various court battles. All of it, even the most stressful days. About the only things I'll miss are the patent filings and quarterly reports. I definitely won't
miss getting up early.
Most importantly, though, among the accomplishments is that we assembled a team of truly passionate co-workers who love what they do, and it shows. When something unexpected happens in the Apple world or in our personal lives, it is a snap to get everyone together in the chat room for a huddle. Having rescued it once before, we all felt an intense dedication to this place. With a lot of credit to Mike for doing the backroom stuff I have so little interest in, we turned the site into more than just a job -- a kind of family, and that of course includes the people who read it.
Like any family, there are people you adore -- and one or two oddball relatives you're not quite sure how to deal with -- but I feel like we successfully made the transition from just churning out stories to becoming a real team of writers, with an audience that (we know even more now than before) appreciated what we were doing. That's not to say it was all unicorns and cupcakes: we had to shut down Electronista
a year ago, and let good people go, because splitting the falling ad revenues between the two sites was killing us -- and of course that has continued to be a challenge.
I'm still mad about what I genuinely believe was a miscarriage of justice in the DOJ e-book prosecution (but when Apple was in the wrong -- like with the no-poaching agreement -- we said so. We're low on the Kool-Aid around here). It definitely took us far too long to create a genuine mobile version of the site, and we know we annoyed some regulars in the process (like every remodeling job, that's a risk you have to take) and cost us potential readers for a long time. My single biggest regret as a leader is that I never managed to get this current team in the same room at the same time. Those conventions from the early days really bonded us, and helped us hash things out, air grievances, speak to the boss in person if needed, and brainstorm ideas and new directions.
We should have done that (we all talked about it), and now we likely won't get the chance. Well, not really: I'm still going to the UK later this year for mine and my wife's 20th wedding anniversary, and we will seek out Malcolm and William (and I've met with Mike a couple of times in DC). Bradley and Amber will be a little trickier to pull off, and Sanjiv in Australia is a challenge, but I'm determined to someday shake each one of their hands.
I've gotten asked why we're turning the lights out, and all I can say is we don't really understand it. I don't think it was about money; the feedback we got was that everything was improving since the redesign. We were all just told one day that we're being let go en masse
, and the site shut down. It seems a great shame that after 21 successful years -- one of the only Apple-oriented websites to last so long -- it would close for no identifiable reason.
Maybe it is the price we paid for enjoying a "light hand" from upper management for so long -- but it produced a run of features, in-depth testing pieces and analysis, quality reviews, podcasts, the occasional video, and news coverage that relentlessly went after the truth and the real story, rather than the gimmicky and alarmist or biased tone, and I am so very proud of it. We are more than just a group, more than friends -- we are Team MacNN
, and we can only hope that wherever life takes us next, we do as well -- and have as great and loyal an audience -- as we did here.
-- Charles Martin