MEDIA COMPUTER PRESS: IT press faces technological upheaval - The IT trade weeklies have been shaken up in the past few months, as internet advertising poaches their revenue and a hungry new entrant muscles in

There is a certain irony in the prospect of the IT trade press facing a threat to its livelihood from the internet. It seems implausible that IT publishers, who disseminate the information that keeps the IT industry functioning, underestimated the speed of its arrival and were wrong-footed as a result.

There is a certain irony in the prospect of the IT trade press

facing a threat to its livelihood from the internet. It seems

implausible that IT publishers, who disseminate the information that

keeps the IT industry functioning, underestimated the speed of its

arrival and were wrong-footed as a result.



Yet this, observers say, is what is behind the recent introduction into

Computer Weekly of pages of lifestyle editorial content, covering

anything from bars to computer games, and issues such as office

bullying.



Computer Weekly which, alongside Computing, dominates the sector, is

introducing non-IT content in an attempt to add value and keep

recruitment advertising away from the web. It is a position worth

defending - rumours suggest the two make more than pounds 10 million

profit each in a good year, with the bulk coming from recruitment

ads.



But the move is also a little tardy. A senior source at one media agency

that spends a lot with the titles says: ’What we are seeing is a minor

outbreak of panic. They own the print recruitment sector, but they do

not own the web sites. They missed the boat, they simply underestimated

how long it would take to take off. This is a late defensive move.’

However the same source gives Computer Weekly credit for a bold move:

one for which it is hard to find a parallel. If trade titles can tighten

their grip on their readers with mainstream content, a major publishing

shake-up could be under way.



Whether this will work is yet to be proven but brand extensions of which

this is a sort, are the name of the game in every other business

sector.



Computing, for its part, says it will not follow suit but will look to

the natural growth of the IT business to make up for what it loses to

the net.



To some, the fact that Computer Weekly and Computing are being put under

pressure is pleasing. The two have grown fat in recent years as their

sector flourished. But while this may have raised their profile as

national media vehicles (Computer Weekly recently co-operated with

Channel 4 News on the story of the Chinook helicopter disaster, for

example), it has also tempted others into the market.



The latest offering is from US publisher Ziff-Davis, which launched IT

Week last May to target the top end of the market and to capitalise on

the fall-out as the two market leaders fight to keep their recruitment

advertising.



Others have tried and failed to muscle in before, but even after the

loss of some recruitment ads, the prize is clearly worth shooting

for.





COMPUTING



Position: editor Circulation: 150,000

Distribution: controlled circulation, subscription and newsstand

Target market: all IT professionals

Frequency: weekly

Founded: 1973



’The research we have tells us that readers do not actually want

lifestyle content from us, they don’t want IT journalists to tell them

which wines to buy. They want information that helps with their career

choice, gets them promoted, and helps them save or make money for their

employers - that’s what we give them. We actually re-vamped our

professional issues careers section a little before Computer Weekly,

rebranding it as Careers, redesigning it and bringing in more focused,

authoritative features.



’We have no plans to put in lifestyle content - maybe we think the

higher end jobs will stay with print, as it is seen as a more suitable

medium for those kinds of position. Certainly, the job ads that are

going on-line so far tend to be at the lower end of the market. In any

case, print will also pick up a lot of advertising from the web sites

themselves, as they will see it as a good branding vehicle.



’Getting your name about is actually much harder and more expensive if

you are an e-business, and they will need the off-line branding that we

can offer. As for IT Week, what it has on its side is that it writes

about a lot of minor products, which gives the illusion of being

comprehensive - this is something we will respond to in the future.’





COMPUTER WEEKLY



Position: editor Circulation: 155,000

Distribution: controlled circulation, subscription and newsstand

Target market: all IT professionals

Frequency: weekly

Founded: 1967



’In the first part of the redesigned magazine we address the readers as

corporate decision-makers, talking about how IT can make a difference to

their business. The second part, Xtra, addresses them as individuals -

we talk about pay, career progress, and pieces on things like where

software developers drink in London.



’The material could be about anything, so long there is a reason why IT

people should be interested. For example, a lot of IT people will get

bonuses at the end of the year for Y2K, so we could do something on

personal finance, looking how to invest your bonus.



’The IT industry has changed a lot in the past decade - IT is now more

important than ever. In the past, IT professionals were always asked

technical questions, now they are being asked key strategic questions.

Whether or not a supermarket group can make effective use of its loyalty

card data is down to IT. This has changed the nature of the reader, and

part of the reason for the redesign was to reflect the fact that readers

now see themselves quite differently: much more business-orientated.



’We are the market leader, we make loads of cash, so there is always a

temptation not to change, but if you don’t you can’t keep up.’





IT WEEK



Position: publisher

Circulation: 55,000

Distribution: controlled circulation Target market: the most senior IT

professionals

Frequency: weekly

Founded: May 1998



’Our target market is senior IT professionals, in terms of their

decision-making and the budgets they control. There will be some

crossover with Computing and Computer Weekly, but they go to 150,000

people, we go to 55,000, so they have a far higher number of lower-grade

readers than we do. Our content is news driven, but the real news forum

is the ZD net web site.



’The magazine is more analytical and insightful, with case studies and

reviews. These days news is web-driven, but people don’t want to read

eight pages of analysis on the web, so that’s in the magazine. Where the

web is really coming in is with recruitment, and the web sites of the

other two weekly IT papers have changed accordingly. That transition

from print to web is critical for them. We don’t have a recruitment

section, they are driven far more by that audience.



’IT Week is in the forefront of the move towards a less widget-focused

IT press, but I don’t really think it is our place as a

business-to-business magazine to deal with lifestyles. We have six

sections: news, enterprise, internet, client, management and networking.

People with different responsibilities can drop into different sections.

It is a question of putting things in perspective and making it clear

why something is important.’



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