2600 And Why Publishing Sucks

26002600: The Hacker Quarterly is the premier (print) infosec publication out there, and depending on who you talk to, the best publication out there that has anything to do with modifying electronics, infiltrating networks, and all the other goodies we post on a daily basis. They’ve also been around for longer than most of our readership, and to lose them would be a terrible loss for anyone who calls themselves a hacker.

Being a print publication, they are completely at the mercy of their distributors. Any sort of media is a very, very dirty business, so when 2600’s distributors recently decided to not pay them for a few previous issues… well, that’s a problem.

2600’s most recent distributor, Source Interlink, was recently dropped as the distributor for Time, throwing the entire company into panic mode. Source Interlink then rebranded itself as TEN: The Enthusiast Network, distributing a disturbing amount of hotrod magazines to bookstores across the country. With this change in names and a little corporatespeak, TEN: The Enthusiast Network has yet to pay 2600 what they’re due.

This isn’t the first time 2600 has faced near oblivion thanks to a distributor. They almost went out of business in 1997 when their distributor declared bankruptcy. 2600 have proven themselves to be resilient folk, though, and all bets are on them making it through this little impasse. Still, they’re still out six months worth of revenue, deep in debt, and they’re putting on a huge conference in a few weeks. It’s really not good timing.

If you’d like to help 2600, buy July’s issue, make them number 1 on Kindle, or buy a ticket for HOPE X. Hackaday is going to have a booth there (awesome!), and we’ll be putting a post up on that when  the already amazing list of speakers is finalized.

41 thoughts on “2600 And Why Publishing Sucks

    1. Yup “Print” as in “Dead Tree”. I get a kick out of reading my high tech hacker news on paper. When I was younger it was over my head, now I look down on some of it as being overly simple.

      I wouldn’t change it for the world. I have most issues from the 90’s to now. Back issues are always available at HOPE if you’re in NY this summer.

  1. If you take the cover price of each 2600 sold, then back out the assorted costs of distribution, printing, proofing, preparing, returns, ad revenue, +/-, you are then left with the true ‘mental cost’ of 2600. That is what each copy truly yields if produced online by the old staff. By eliminating a host of people that adhere to the paper version and get down to 2-4 key people, you would arrive at the true staff cost. Reporters – via the Huffington Post method, paid with Glory and Rep points.
    2600 needs to then make itself that lean and sell online for that. This price might be remarkably low per copy if they get the numbers up. A million subscribers at $1 per year or say 10 cents per month = $1,000,000, which is good wages for 2-4 people, and it will pay for the bandwidth as well.
    Will people still steal at 10 cents? If the payment method is built into the order click so the micro-payment costs is very low, it might work.

    Who would bother to steal 10 cents? Some will, some will be in India or Russia, so let it happen. If you embed the advertising at 40% of pages that revenue will make the cost below zero = fully add paid. There might be a goodle ad pages variation possible here to distribute and hive off the cash to the publishers each month..

    2600 should leap to this method right now, rather than be dragged incrementally to it as it dies by inches. The entire magazine industry would be wise to do this as well.

      1. Yeah, I was going to say this. Many of the people who read 2600 are quite paranoid about preserving their online anonymity, sort of rules out payment solely by card.

  2. I hope they can continue to make a print version….but…..I use to *try* and read 2600 back in the day – but most of the software “hacks” we’re beyond me. Do miss all the talk about phone hacking! That was cool stuff. I wish them luck, but, Maybe someone should buy them? *cough*supply frame*cough*

  3. It’s a bit misleading to say ‘Time dropped Source Interlink as a distributor’. The real story is Source Interlink owed Time magazine 19 million dollars in unpaid distribution revenue and Time had no choice but to cut their losses and fire Source Interlink as their distributor. Time has reported it will cost them an additional 1 to 4 million in transition costs and a loss of 7 million in bookings against future revenue (a key figure of any annual report). I suspect Time (NewsCorp) will sue, however I also suspect there is not enough assets to cover more than a few cents on every dollar before the lawyers – assuming a win.



    1. yes, the retail channel is paying months in arrears as usual, because a local distributor gets magazines for the magazine sellers in his area. Each one signs for a number. When the next one comes out each seller tears off the front page of each unsold copy, scraps the bulk and returns the tear offs to the distributor, who matches what he delivered against returns and invoices for the sold. As you can see payments can get into arrears and as sales fell, the delare would return a high % of mags unsold and at some point they make the channel into a negative cash flow hole.

      Places like Walmart that sell 35% off list do not help.

      This entire channel will be gone in 5-10 years as they all go to a downloaded ad paid version

  4. Man, the subscription price isn’t bad, but single issue could be a little cheaper. Yeah, it’s a neat magazine, but as George noted, most of their hacks were beyond me as well.

    Obviously this article doesn’t exactly encourage this, but I wonder if there’s ever been any consideration of a Hackaday magazine. Maybe a quarterly rag would be fun.

  5. How about setting up 2600 Magazine as a smartphone app on Google Play instead of just a KINDLE app? Anonymity can be maintained by PayPal, BitCoin, etc.

    Also how about a vending machine at the shopping malls nationwide that distributes 2600 magazine just like a Coke machine or a RedBox video machine? It would be self-distribution and eliminate the middle man altogether. It can take cash or credit card (or PayPal). 2600 would contract with independent contractors who buy or rent the machines from 2600. 2600 would get their money up front and IC’s recoup their investment in cash-box collections. 2600 could focus their distribution to specific neighborhoods that interest them. Even have the machines near book stores like B. Dalton, etc.

    The nation’s shopping malls near the food courts would be a cash-cow for them. Hackers love to hang out there. They can be small machines that rest on counters or shelves. Only needs power and a phone line or a cell-phone or wi-fi connection.


    1. Magazines are very tiny files, 35-50 meg – less for high text ratio, so download is far cheaper than the freight, post etc and these vending stations take 50% or more.

      I think most magazines must go to an ad based free circulation basis. Those that have no adds, google will insert and kicj back a cut.

      I thnk the traditional magazine business is dead, lying there, filled with fly eggs and soon the carcass will vanish.

      All these other monetization schemes, paywalls etc, and dying as we speak, the last gasp of a dead species.

  6. “a disturbing amount of hotrod magazines” Hotrod and custom car builders are also hackers – unless they’re the sort with tons of money who just buy all their parts ready made or pay someone else to design and make the custom bits.

    Building your own 454 cubic inch small block Chevy V8 = Hacker. Throwing almost $13,000 at GM for a LSX454 crate engine = not a hacker.

    1. Disagree with that. Shoehorning a non standard engine into a car, mating transmissions etc can be just as hack worthy as anything else. It’s the difference between hacking electronics with a arduino vs with a handful of components. Depends how far back you want to go. Is it hacking if you don’t smelt your own ore?

  7. I haven’t seen a printed copy of 2600 in years, but then again I stooped going to bookstores over a decade ago. Where are they sold? Does Barnes & Noble or Borders still carry it? I’d like to get the current copy for the nostalgia and novelty of it if nothing else.

  8. So, if I went out and bought a copy, how exactly would that help 2600 if the distributor isn’t paying them? Sounds like I would be giving money to the distributor.

  9. For printed copies, I would go for a pure subscription model and online sales of individual copies. Distributors, newsagents, bookshops — they just eat up way too much potential profit.

  10. I would subscribe if the magazine had a 6/yr rotation and slightly better organization as well as complete articles that have several issue arcs. I currently find them VERY random and spend more time flipping forward and back reading a paragraph here and there, all of which can be done in the bookstore.

    A series I want to see in EVERY issue and ongoing is personal anonymity/security. I put together a secure laptop and send PGP signed emails but some program pokes a hole in your security and you speed weeks mopping up the mess. Also how to’s on retaining as much privacy as possible when on typical websites and stores. As a side project it would be interesting to have competitions like hiding trucrypt volumes undetectably.

    They do currently have articles like this but their is no organization between them unfortunately.

      1. They need to keep a certain percentage accessible to the broader hacker culture. I’m not talking about noobz here who need help installing linux but neither am I talking about veterans who whip out emacs and code a solution to kernel level problems from just a memory dump.

        I have read some awesome articles and a few lame ducks but most have been beyond my sphere of caring. A few times I will even go so far as to say they published blatant lies. I remember one story of “Chinese spies stealing MIT students thesis and research papers by copying the encrypted data from the students subvocalization implants” that read like a great short story for Astounding Science Fiction…

        1. and here in 2022 many commie Chinese spies have been caught stealing from universities and companies, of course their commie fascist democrat pal Olld Fraud Joe sent many of them home, no trading just gratis,

  11. I just ended my 2600 subscription. I was very disappointed at what I got for the cost, I only got one every quarter and when I opened it there was maybe one or two articles on actual hacking and the rest is bullshit blog style filler about how old people aren’t as good at computers as young people and new apps that tweet the weight of your shit.
    Am I the only one that has actually read the paper version and thinks its not as good as it used to be?

    1. I haven’t bought an issue from B&N for a couple years now. They went progressively downhill for several years and I just gave up. Maybe it’s just my difference in age (now vs then), but the 2600 I remember fondly was cutting edge, sufficiently nefarious, and a satisfying read. The last issue I read had one or two feature articles (one of which was of interest, the other not so) and then a bunch of op-ed filler. I enjoyed the couple “back in my day” historical articles. The rest was just fluff and fractured correspondence from readers (a great deal of which was written either by idiots who wished they were 1337 or by prisoners who were apparently just bored). I get that sometime its hard to find content suitable for publication, but at some point it seems as if they stopped trying as hard or something… It’s sad. I do wish them the best though… if their magazine helps get more folks into the various disciplines of hacking, then it is still doing some good!

  12. 2600 is one of those publications I want to like but can’t dig in to enjoy it. I buy an issue every now and then when I spot an article of possible interest at which point I’m reminded why I don’t subscribe. Last time was a few years ago.

    From what I can recollect, 2600 always feels disjointed, like reading a local stoners mag that’s very popular here. I recall spending a lot of time flipping through pages just to finish the articles of any significant length.

  13. What’s with people hating on 2600, I look forward to the issues. In a world full of shit news, people mag, Cosmo, porn, and other shit its nice to get real information that’s enthralling, riveting, cerebrally pleasuring, etc. The only thing that I don’t enjoy is the email/letter section, peoples questions are uninteresting to me, as so is some writers soap block, a man that is himself needs not defend himself. I would be saddened to see 2600 vanish, so much great media and publishing content is disappearing from lack of revenue, so most switch dumb down and broaden the base to stay alive when really they just died in a single stroke, and I’m afraid the idiocracy of society may win over in the future.

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