William B. Ziff Jr., the guy who invented modern special interest publishing died — apparently on Saturday morning “in his sleep peacefully” according to the family. There is zero news coverage of this so far. Only a few blogs seem to be aware of it. The family is quite secretive but there will be a death announcement in tomorrow’s New York Times.

Ziff lived in his various mansions and apparently travelled alot after selling off his empire of magazines and other holdings in the late 1990’s after his children decided that these businesses were not for them. Everyone who knew Ziff and had the opportunity to chat with him appreciated him for a deep knowledge of many subjects. He will be missed. Ziff was 76.

An excellent short bio of Ziff appears here.

  1. Tim says:

    Wow, it’s hard to believe the lack of coverage on this. If ZDTV was still around I bet there’d be move coverage. Thanks for keeping us informed John.

  2. Eideard says:

    Back in the day, I remember a friend who left what I thought was a great job in research metallurgy to go to work for Ziff-Davis. He never looked back.

    Years later, I bumped into him and he said it was the smartest thing he ever did. Best working and writing experience of his life.

  3. I needed to confirm this story (and did) since there was a lot of random email going around about this. Lots of interesting insight is now gone with his passing. He never was much of a writer unlike his father.

  4. Hvacmach says:

    Will this have a change on the Ziff-Davis network / empire?

  5. NO he’s been away from all the companies that bear part of his name for a decade or longer.

  6. Bill Ziff was a Pioneer on the birth of modern day technology publications. He was a legend!

  7. cynic says:

    Glad to see ZDnet/Cnet (same company finally get to the story hours later.) 🙂

  8. I worked for Ziff-Davis Publishing in NY from 1989 until 1996 – the majority of those years under Bill Ziff’s steady hand and under the influence of his unique vision. I was in circulation, and was the beneficiary of his truly unique concept of the three-legged stool of publishing: Sales was strictly separate from editorial, which was entirely separate from circulation. All three reported to him directly, and were given equal opportunity to further their own agenda. The edit staff created the “magnet” for readers with content, circulation created the “screen” which ensured qualified readers in the appropriate quantity for advertisers to reach, and sales, of course, were able to sell this product to advertisers interested in reaching only the most qualified buyers culled from this two-step process. I know of no other publisher who religiously adhered to such strict separation of what sometimes are competing interests. It taught me discipline and respect for the other components of the publishing world, and gave us in circulation the seemingly unlimited resources to do our job truly well. It is a world gone-by. Thanks, Bill. Now if you had only passed on to me the secret of your impeccable business timing!


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