The Practical Mac

MacHome Magazine: 1991-2006

- 2006.09.18 - Tip Jar

I'm surprised to have read very little about the recent demise of a pillar of the Mac community: MacHome magazine. Closing its doors after publication of the June 2006 issue, the Macintosh community has lost a valuable citizen.

I have subscribed to all three (now two) of the mainstream Mac-related magazines - Macworld, MacAddict, and MacHome - since the late 90s. Each magazine has a slightly different target audience.

MacHome aimed squarely at the consumer, with substantial content directed toward the beginner or casual user who just wanted to know how to design a newsletter in Word and had no interest in soldering the motherboard in order to achieve a 10 MHz speed gain. Here is an excerpt from the single paragraph dedicated to MacHome's closure on Bacon's Media Update:

...the monthly technology magazine was written for Macintosh consumers. Editorial content provided practical advice for those who used Macintosh computers for their personal needs, whether playing games, creating music and art, or running a home or small business. Each issue contained technology tips, expert buying advice and detailed how-to articles.

The key phrase in the above description is practical advice. Every month, MacHome seemed to have a couple of tips that made you say, "Hey, I can use that." Articles I recall through the years dealt with topics such as how to do a simple mail merge in Word, basic photo manipulation in iPhoto, and designing and publishing a newsletter. It was nothing fancy - just useful and, well, practical.

The most disappointing part of the loss of MacHome is that there is no longer a publication that a beginner can pick up, read cover to cover, understand most of the content, and even find a lot of it useful.

The prototypical consumer I have in mind is my wife, Kay. She glances at each Mac magazine we receive every month. As entertaining as I might find reading about Niko taking something apart and putting it back together in a disturbing and unnatural way (in order to, for instance, power your iPod with a car battery while walking around town), such things just don't interest Kay.

However, she always read MacHome cover-to-cover, and I often find the magazine or a how-to article torn from it sitting beside her PowerBook.

I don't know why MacHome went under. One can suppose it was probably for the usual reason a business fails: not making enough money to pay the bills. But as to the reasons why it didn't make money, I haven't a clue.

MacHome was founded as, literally, a mom and pop operation. In 2002, the husband and wife publishing team sold the magazine to MacHome's former Director of Advertising, Kevin Octavio. I interviewed Kevin for a weekly newspaper column I write back in 2003. It seemed like things were going well at MacHome.

After buying the magazine, Kevin's team had given it a much-needed and impressive makeover. The content and the approach had been refreshed. But somewhere along the way, something apparently went wrong.

The magazine's demise comes, ironically, at a time when its fortunes should have been on the rise. Finally, after years of fighting the good fight, Apple's market share is rising - significantly. As a result, Apple has acquired a constant stream of users who are new to the Mac.

MacHome would have been the perfect magazine for introducing these users to the simple wonders that are Macintosh.

In many ways, the MacHome saga is reminiscent of what Sears went through over a decade ago. Faced with declining sales, Sears discontinued its venerable catalog. In the couple of years immediately following, however, a phenomenon called the Internet exploded onto the stage. Sears' catalog business was tailor-made for online ordering. If they could have just hung on a little longer....

Rest in peace, MacHome. You will be missed. LEM

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Steve Watkins is the Vice President for Information Technology for a mid-sized bank, an attorney, and an Army Reserve JAG on extended active duty. He has been a Mac user for about 12 years. He has owned some PCs along the way - but always came back to the Mac. If you find his articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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