Ghost Sites of the Web

Web 1.0 history, forgotten web celebrities, old web sites, commentary, and news by Steve Baldwin. Published erratically since 1996.

September 13, 2006

Remembering Bill Ziff, Jr.

This is off-the beaten track, but I was saddened to learn of the death of William B. Ziff, Jr. I worked at Ziff-Davis from 1991 to 1995, starting at a magazine called PC Sources, and later moving to Computer Shopper and ZDNet. While I arrived at Ziff-Davis too late to get to know Bill, who had pretty much retired from day-to-day operations, the impression which he left on the company was deep and it informed the way we produced our magazines. Bill's philosophy of publishing was very simple: produce quality content that can be trusted by readers, and the advertisers will follow. Violate that trust, and your project will fail.

This simple enjoinder is one which I'm afraid many magazines, websites, and media properties have forgotten today. Fakery seems to be everywhere today, from LonelyGirl15 to James Frey to Jason Blair to "sock puppetry" at the New Republic. Trust between reader and publisher has been fraying for a long time, and it's getting to a point where it's almost impossible to know whether a source can be trusted.

Bill Ziff will surely be missed by those who still think that editorial integrity isn't optional but essential. Let's hope that we learn by his example that one can make a good living, and build a great empire, by doing the right thing, and never letting commercial pressures weaken the sacred bond between publisher and reader.


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