After a long, successful run covering the latest and greatest in the computer programming industry, Dr. Dobb's is closing its doors. Editor in Chief Andrew Binstock wrote on the site earlier this month that its parent company, United Business Media, made the decision to "sunset" the publication, which currently consists of a monthly PDF in addition to information on its main site. The choice to "sunset" rather than close it down completely means that current content and links will continue to exist and work. Binstock states: "It is the equivalent of a product coming to end of life. It still runs, but no new features will be added."
Dr. Dobb's was founded in 1975 as a monthly journal. Starting off as dr. dobb's journal of Tiny BASIC Calisthenics & Orthodontia, the journal grew from covering BASIC programming to covering all languages and platforms. It was revolutionary in its content thanks to contributions from all over the globe, including such names as Steve Wozniak, and offered a forum to discuss the latest and greatest in the industry.
In 2009, the journal, shortened then to Dr. Dobb's Journal, announced that it would transition its content to a website. The site stayed true to its refined tone and catered towards professionals in the community, refusing to fall prey to click bait journalism or what Binstock describes as the "tawdry tricks" of click-through slideshows to generate site views. And, their formula worked; this year, they end on a high note of 10.3 million page views.
"As our page views show, the need for an independent site with in-depth articles, code, algorithms, and reliable product reviews is still very much present," Binstock writes.
So with its millions of monthly views and a legacy as a flagship in the programming industry amongst professionals, why would it cease to publish information?
To put it simply, as Binstock did: Money.
Four years ago, when I came to Dr. Dobb's, we had healthy profits and revenue, almost all of it from advertising. Despite our excellent growth on the editorial side, our revenue declined such that today it's barely 30% of what it was when I started. While some of this drop is undoubtedly due to turnover in our sales staff, even if the staff had been stable and executed perfectly, revenue would be much the same and future prospects would surely point to upcoming losses. This is because in the last 18 months, there has been a marked shift in how vendors value website advertising. They've come to realize that website ads tend to be less effective than they once were. Given that I've never bought a single item by clicking on an ad on a website, this conclusion seems correct in the small.
The fate of Dr. Dobb's may also come to other sites, as Binstock muses that the current state of declining revenue from ad sales is one that affects the industry in general. While Dr. Dobb's isn't quite at the point where it's losing money, going out on top is better than being forced to close your doors completely.
Binstock ends his message on a high note, saying that, with the current state of the Web and the increasingly accessible avenues to share programming knowledge, Dr. Dobb's community mission will continue to live on.