Thursdays will never be the same again. The Guardian is to axe its printed technology section after 17 December.
Editor Charles Arthur explained the decision in this week's edition: too many IT job ads have moved online. And it's hard to disagree: the section is painfully light compared with the Guardian's hefty media, education and public sector supplements.
But judging by the reader comments on Arthur's article above, I'm obviously not alone in mourning the printed section. I used to savour reading it on the train back from first direct in Leeds on a Thursday afternoon, or on the tube home from Canary Wharf. Now I commute by car, I save the treat for the evening. But not for much longer.
Some have questioned the direction Technology Guardian has taken since Charles Arthur took over in 2005. The Free Our Data campaign has come under particular fire as an obsession that put many off. And I always skip past the regular section on computer games. All this, though, is a distraction. Those job ads are the lifeblood of any supplement.
I just hope that enough of Technology Guardian survives in the main paper. (And please keep the tech podcast.) But the demise of the gadget spot in the Saturday Weekend magazine isn't a good sign. And what are the prospects of the excellent family section in Saturday's paper? The closure of the 30 year old business section in the Observer, the Guardian's sister paper, is another indication that papers are struggling to cope with the recession and the rise of online advertising. I'll enjoy my favourite sections while they're still there. But you have to ask whether newspapers are doing enough to win new readers and secure the loyalty of existing subscribers. Cost cutting may help them survive the storm. It won't secure a long term future.
UPDATE, Wednesday 25 November 2009
Charles Arthur, The Guardian's technology editor, has posted the following response.
(Note: a bug in Typepad's comment system meant Charles was unable to post a comment via Typepad. Typepad tells me they are working on a fix. Meanwhile, I am happy to post Charles's emailed comment here unedited.)
[Your quote] "Some have questioned the direction Technology Guardian has taken since Charles Arthur took over in 2005. The Free Our Data campaign has come under particular fire as an obsession that put many off."
Err... who are these "some"? They weren't very vocal. Or was I looking the wrong way somehow? And what particular fire did Free Our Data - which you'll have noticed scored a giant victory this week, with Gordon Brown and Tim Berners-Lee backing its core idea - come under? I kept meeting people who wanted it to happen; never any who said "I'm so bored of that campaign". Never.
"And I always skip past the regular section on computer games."
Unlike the gamers who read the section. We try to cover a broad waterfront.
I'd have to say: I think that the Free Our Data campaign is going to be viewed, in retrospect, as having marked a sea change in government's view of the non-personal data it collects. You may not have liked it, people you met might not have liked it - but it's going to enable lots of new businesses, and reduce costs for many more, which means more jobs and more business. (And more tax revenue for the government.)