Today the curtain falls on New Media Age, the Centaur-published trade title that was seen by many as a bible for the UK's digital marketing communications industry.
With the New Media Age website about to be unplugged as its brand is merged into Econsultancy, we asked some of the key figures from NMA's 17-year history to reflect on its sad demise.
In the first of a two-part special, former editorial staff Nick Jones, Justin Pearse and Gareth Jones share their memories...
Nick Jones, founding reporter for NMA, now deputy director of communications - digital for the Prime Minister's Office & Cabinet Office
Way back in early 1994 I pitched a conference idea called Navigating the Information Superhighway to the publishers of Marketing Week. On 4 July of that year 29 delegates turned up and got very excited about this interactive thing and what it could do for marketing, publishing and retailing. One speaker was a young Ajaz Ahmed. I wonder what he's doing now...
Knowing that there was a community out there keen to collaborate around all things interactive gave me confidence there was an appetite for news and views on it all. Further conversations at the MaxPax machine with Phil Dwyer, who published newsletters, convinced us that we could write so much about it all. With Catherine Stewart, one of his brand writers, and Juliana Koranteng, a media reporter, we cobbled together the first issue of New Media Age in May 1995. We nearly called it Infobahn.
Newsletters rely on up-front subscriptions and the hundred or so subscribers who first signed up on the strength of a flier gave us real confidence that we were on to something. When Sony Computer Entertainment's form came in we knew we'd caught the eyes of the big boys. This wasn't just for techies. This was for marketers, communicators, storytellers and gamesmakers. This would be no niche newsletter.
We broke the arrival of America Online to Europe, it's race against Compuserve and Europe Online. We reported the rise and fall of a succession of tech titans, be it Netscape versus Microsoft or the better mousetrap builders in the search sector. Who recalls Altavista's free Internet for life offer? Newspapers were ever experimenting. The Daily Telegraph went online. And, up in Shetland, rival newspapers dueled their way to the court room in a row about whether linking to one of their sites from the other was legal. Back down in Cambridge ARM ran an interactive video broadcasting trial. Home grown talent started building agencies, like Webmedia and Bluewave. Suddenly companies started spending money on sites. Not all of them knew what they were doing. Reporting on yet another 3D virtual shopping mall got tiring. However, reporting on the smart VC money moving in again gave confidence that this sector was no fly-by-night. The Internet Book Shop got snapped up by Amazon to get a footprint here. Ad technology added the alchemy that fuelled phenomenal growth. The rest is our history.
Those early days writing and analysing taught me that the Internet done well will shine a spotlight deep into any business. It will brutally highlight the failures, the gaffer tape on the dodgy wiring, the ‘me-too’ half-baked business models, the traumatising customer service #fails. But it will also accelerate the effect of the best of digital behaviours. To the benefit of all, not just one particular business – be it creating, connecting or sharing. Creativity was electrified by digital. Britain truly is great at this stuff. The wow and wonder of digital still thrills me. Making connections and community has been transformed by 17 years of digitally enabled relationships. And, sharing the creativity, adding value in conversations across all those connections remains a keystone behaviour of the digital sector.
Way back in early 1995 we mocked-up a couple of dummy mastheads for New Media Age. One had a stylised sun dawning over the horizon of the planet. We didn't run with it in the end but it always stuck in my mind. Maybe this stuff could change the world. Today the sun sets on the NMA web site. With pride and affection I look back on the little role it played in creating, connecting and sharing across a sector that has generated billions for the country. We are all still living in a new media age. And I love it.
Justin Pearse, former editor of NMA, now head of innovation for Bite
I spent over 12 years working at NMA. Why so long? It would have been very difficult spending over a decade working on a magazine covering any other industry. The industry we covered moved so fast and evolved so quickly that NMA had to evolve at a similarly frantic rate. NMA became in effect a different title every year as we raced to keep pace with industry developments. We were lucky enough to have a front seat view of the internet’s creep into all areas of human life, upsetting, revolutionising, and both destroying and giving birth to industries as it went.
It was always amusing to face the constant questioning about why we were still called New Media Age, when the industry was no longer new. My response, at any time of the years, was always that I could name at least five new media technologies or initiatives set to usher in the latest wave of disruption. I still can.
NMA was always far more than a publication. It sounds corny but it was a lifestyle. We sat at the heart of one of the most exciting industries there has ever been and we didn’t just report on the industry, we felt part of it.
The disappearance of NMA will leave a hole in many people’s professional lives, as so many have told me over the last year or so. Not because we were brilliant, though of course we were!, but because the title formed the background to the digital adventures of the exciting, creative, successful, technological and often mad people that built the digital industry.
NMA was the time of my life and, I hope, for all those who read it.
Gareth Jones, deputy news editor at NMA, now global brand & marketing director for LBi
Working at NMA was never dull; whether you were interviewing some hot new startup or trying to keep up with Justin Pearse in Bar Chocolate. There were many things made NMA unique, but for me it was the unfalteringly high editorial standards combined with an innate sense of fun that set it apart. Unlike most business magazines NMA genuinely informed, challenged and inspired its readers, making it as important to the genesis of the UK digital industry as the Napsters, Lastminutes and Boo.coms that it wrote about. Over the years, the level of respect for NMA and its journalism never waned. It's only a shame that the same can't be said for the level of investment the title received. I thoroughly enjoyed the two years I spent working on NMA. I met some great people, learned loads … and had a blast along the way! It's a real shame to see NMA consigned to the dotcom history books.
In part two, published later today, former publishers Nigel Roby and Andy Oakes will share their memories of NMA along with former news editor Charlotte McEleny