Sub-Standard

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In the end, the once-highflying Industry Standard was just another failed dot-com. What a missed opportunity. Management and owners ultimately squandered their chance to recast it for a market that had changed.

The old Standard did not fit into a new-economy market gone bust. Its staffing, cost structure, ambitions and IPO greed were stuck in the anomaly called 2000. Its management needed to take a brand that helped define the Internet economy and restage it as a technology magazine for what's ahead. That did not happen in time.

The Standard had options. It could have reduced its weekly frequency, slashed its expenses enough to survive into next year and come to terms with its main financial backer, International Data Group, which knows how to manage technology titles in good times and bad. Or it could have sold its brand at a good price early this year. Time Inc. in June paid $68 million for the good name (and subscription list) of the less-honored Business 2.0. What was the more prominent Standard worth earlier this year?

Stories paying homage to the Standard fault IDG for not understanding the Standard's grand plan. That's myopic, confusing a winner with a loser. IDG knows how to run technology magazines as a business. It was up to the managers at the Standard to change with the times. But all the buzz generated by the Standard's success did not add up to a sustainable business when times turned hard.

The frustration about the Standard's fate is heightened because, for a time, it showed the vibrancy of print media. And the heights it scaled in readership, reputation and record ad pages all came while chronicling an Internet age that was supposed to crush old media like print.

The Internet has a bright future-as a technology to complement, not supplant, the old economy. And print? The Standard proved the power of print to draw an audience and advertisers. Too bad the Standard bearers believed too much of what they wrote about the new economy to understand how the old economy, and adeptly run magazines, can still deliver the goods.

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