Cnet sells Computer Shopper to VC-funded startup

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Cnet sells Computer Shopper to VC-funded startup

San Francisco (CA) – In what may just be the next chapter of the magazine’s long and storied history, Computer Shopper has been sold to a new firm, its current publishers, Cnet, announced this morning.

A newly launched startup firm, SX2 Media Labs, becomes the magazine’s fourth owner. Terms of the sale were not disclosed, but Cnet’s statement this morning makes clear the sale has already happened. Early indications are that this is news to people both in- and outside of the publication. The new owner’s chairman, Barry Schwimmer, did make reference this morning to the publication’s “top-notch editorial staff,” although it is not known how long they may continue to reside on that notch.

Adding to the puzzlement is an additional statement from SX2’s CEO, David Sills: “We are committed to growing this business and using its powerful brand history to continue delivering quality editorial content and reviews about technology and products that change people’s lives.” What Sills clearly omits is whether the company absolutely intends to grow the brand as a print publication – in other words, he does not say whether the Shopper will continue as a magazine.

Throughout its history under many different stewards, Computer Shopper has toyed with the idea of moving its publication, either principally or entirely, online, with prototype concepts having been developed as early as 1987.

For Cnet’s part, the company’s president, Barry Briggs, said, “Computer Shopper has remained the premiere magazine for technology enthusiasts in a highly competitive and rapidly-changing industry. But as our only print publication in the United States, Computer Shopper was not in a position to realize its full potential. This transaction will place the magazine in an environment more conducive to its growth while enabling Cnet to continue to focus on interactive content.” Clearly Cnet is interested in committing entirely to online publishing, which some would argue is a more efficient, more profitable business to be in, especially for the technology-oriented reader.

Computer Shopper founding editor-in-chief Stan Veit

At one time, Computer Shopper was the largest publication of its kind, both in terms of readership and size. Founded in 1983 by Shutterbug publisher Glenn Patch in Titusville, Florida, it was Stan Veit who converted it from a yellow-paper convenience store handout into a publication that would rival TV Guide for newsstand circulation.

Printing as many as 750 super-sized pages per month, the Shopper was purchased in 1988 by Ziff-Davis, and moved to New York. There, as the jewel of Ziff’s crown, it would fuel the development of a handful of supplemental brands such as PC Sources, which bloomed and died out like cheap fireworks. Suffering from being made over in too many different people’s images, the vastly slimmer Shopper was acquired by Cnet during an all-out takeover of Ziff in 2000. Cnet would not keep Ziff for long, spinning it off but keeping the two projects that emerged from Stan Veit’s vision: Shopper and ZDNet.