Opinion: Who mourns for <i>Yahoo! Internet Life</i>?

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I spent too many years working for trade papers and magazines to take any cheap shots at the bankruptcy of Ziff Davis — one of many companies that, for a fleeting moment in the nineties, almost made trade papers cool.

With a storied history dating back to the 1920s, the trade-and-hobby-pub conglomerate found a niche in tech mags in the 1980s, became Johnny-on-the-spot during the internet boom of the 1990s, and apparently has been riding the comet back down in this decade. But those were heady days in that post-Wired, Wolff New Media-crazed era when everybody (or more precisely, nobody) was itching to get the latest issue of Inside the Fast Red eCompany Standard 2.0 Now, when it seemed as if the dreary drudgework of trade journalism could be webified into something brighter and shinier than it really was. Could there actually be sexiness in the meat and potatoes of business?

In my crated-up junk I may still have a VHS tape of a profile of me (as a web personality!) on ZDTV back in that golden age. That I was of interest to a TV show at all should have been the tipoff that something was seriously wrong. Somewhere in the course of that interview, I think you can detect the exact second when the effort to introduce some degree of hipness into what was essentially a dull business peaked and began to fall. It’s all been downhill from there, and in fact the one well-lost casualty of the nineties was the delusion that cool-factor had much monetary value. But Z D gave it the college try, and has since been trying to stay afloat in the less glamorous but more honorable business of providing useful information. In honor of Chemical Marketing Reporter, Securities Industry Daily and all those other then-unreadable and now-defunct birdcage liners that kept me off the dole, I salute Ziff Davis.