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Monday, January 11, 2016

The Demise of Running Times... and how it Relates to the GIS Media

I just got a card in the mail letting me know that Running Times, a magazine I'd subscribed to for maybe eight years, is ending publication in January. The timing will let its sibling, Runner's World, also owned by Rodale Press, celebrate its 50th year, and per the card, "broaden its ambitions."

Print publishing is having a rough time these days and I knew when Running Times and Runner's World came under the same umbrella in 2007, there would be changes. I am very happy Rodale kept both editorial teams paid and the magazines published until 2016!

Running Times shutting down does in fact relate to GIS. As many in the industry know, both Joe Francica (former Editor in Chief of Directions Magazine) and I (his executive editor at that publication for nearly 10 years) are runners. In fact, I'm pretty sure we first met each other as runners back when American Cadastre (AmCAD) used to sponsor 5k races at URISA conferences in the 1990s. I'd attend those conferences as an employee of Esri; Joe worked at Intergraph.

When I joined Directions Joe and I would talk quite a bit about the magazine we wanted to publish. And, we decided we wanted to publish the Running Times of GIS rather than the Runner's World of GIS. 

I subscribed to Runner's World when I returned to running "seriously" at 40. While I ran for basic fitness during a 22 year hiatus, I'd not trained to race since high school cross country. Runner's World was fine, but I noticed that after about a year, the same content, with different titles and authors reappeared. Someone pointed out that was to be expected since every day a new runner would subscribe. And, that newbie would need those same beginner articles. Since the publication aimed to serve all runners, it needed a broad set of regularly repeated articles.

After a few years I swapped my Runner's World subscription for Running Times. The latter is aimed at the more competitive runner, those towards the front of the pack. The articles covered more science and were meatier. There was no "rah rah" cheerleading. Even the profiles of the pros and pre-elites included valuable tidbits for those who wanted to "train like the pros." I particularly liked the articles by coaches that explained the "why" behind different types of workouts. 

At Directions Joe and I set out to cover the important science and politics GIS stories. We tried to go into the why of the technology and the state of the marketplace. We left the "lighter fare" for the Runner's Worlds' of GIS. I'm not sure we succeeded with every article and interview, but that was our goal. 

We both moved on from Directions a bit over a year ago and the focus of that publication changed. I began to look for a new Running Times of GIS to keep me up-to-date on the industry. I was looking for a publication that at least collected the important press releases and also identified and explored issues in depth. I wanted a publication for individuals at the front of the GIS pack. 

I've not found a publication that fits the bill, and recently gave up the search. Perhaps just as is happening in running, there's no longer a need for a publication for the front of the pack. I'm trimming my running media consumption down to one magazine (Ultramarathoning, since that's what I focus on these days) and a few podcasts. My GIS publication media consumption includes  one or two Runner's World level treatments of geospatial technology, mostly for press releases, supplemented with blog, LinkedIn and Medium posts suggested on Twitter and elsewhere.

The only trusted source for keeping up with news and insight in both areas in 2016 is the one I build for myself.