Reliable to the last… and at this rate, the last may never come.

I’m referring to eWeek, a PC industry publication that gets delivered free of charge into the mailboxes of the movers and shakers of the IT world, a group large enough that it apparently encompasses yours truly. Who knew?

Way back when, I filled out a mail-back coupon… or maybe it was a web form… or maybe the damn thing just started coming. However it began, our living room started piling up with plastic-wrapped, oversized glossy magazines jam-packed with information – which, let’s all remember, Wants To Be Free. It doesn’t necessarily want to be useful, though, and – for my purposes – eWeek wasn’t.

I couldn’t get worked up over battles between rival network operating systems and database standards. The comings and goings of senior executives whose names I’d never heard weren’t grabbing me either. Stock performance? I didn’t own any. My diagnosis: eWeek is for people who give a rat’s about The Industry, and I find The Industry a lot less interesting than The Product, especially on The Desktop with The Nice Warm Cup Of Tea and The Scone.

So when the word finally came on October 23 that my subscription was lapsing, I welcomed it. Our house is less a home and more a magnet for stray paper, and any less coming over the transom is a step in the right direction.

“If you fail to renew before the deadline, we’ll be forced to replace you with another IT Professional from our waiting list. Don’t delay,” warned the message. “November 20th will be the last issue of eWEEK you receive if you do not renew immediately!”

And sure enough, eWeek didn’t appear in our mailbox. Matter of fact, it hadn’t in months, because the mail forwarding had expired from our old place, and eWeek’s publishers don’t have our new address.

Still, someone in the Post Office must have been happy at the end of the onslaught of maggies-in-baggies.

But the e-mail was only just beginning.

On November 7th, this message popped up: “We invite you to continue reading eWEEK, but you must respond immediately as there are only a limited number of FREE subscriptions available.”

No problem; we were still on target for November 20th – a date that came and went.

Flash forward, through New Year’s (had a very nice time, thank you) and the mildest Vancouver winter on record, to February 26th. Here’s what appeared in my inbox:

“Dear ROB COTTINGHAM, your Free Subscription to eWEEK has almost expired!

“You have been part of a select group receiving the industry’s latest breaking news, timely product reviews, and strategic analysis of the technologies, platforms, and trends that impact enterprise-wide computing, but March 26th will be the last issue of eWEEK you receive if you do not renew immediately!”

Moved though I was by the personal touch of PUTTING MY NAME IN BLOCK CAPS, I was still perplexed. I felt as though I’d been led to the gallows, only to find the hangman flipping through his DayTimer and saying, “Cottingham… Cottingham… Nope, I don’t have a three o’clock with a Cottingham.”

Still, with no sign of an eWeek in my physical mailbox, I took a few deep breaths and got on with my life.

On March 26th, another e-mail – identically worded – threatening me with termination on April 23rd unless I replied by April 2nd. Another one on March 27th. Successive e-mails pushed back the date further and further, with May 16th now being the day I’ve inexplicably failed to circle in red on my calendar.

eWeek is now beginning to look like a wildly unsuccessful – but still admirably determined – doomsday cult. “Can’t fit the Apocalpyse into your busy timetable? We’ll reschedule.” Maybe that’s only to be expected in the era of the dot-com slump. Will Dell employees soon be populating airport terminals selling flowers for their charismatic leader Father Michael? Will hollow-cheeked kids dressed in jeans and black turtlenecks wander the streets chanting and pounding drums made from discarded iMacs?

Maybe. A few more e-mails from eWeek may be enough to make the Kool-Aid look awfully tempting from here.