Media Computer Magazines: Home’s where the PC heartland is - The internet has transformed a once niche magazine sector into a mainstream market, as the surge in home PCs has fuelled demand for practical advice

The departure of Computer Active deputy editor Dylan Armbrust to Future Publishing has prompted speculation that Future is either going to launch a new PC title of its own or relaunch existing titles to go head to head with the current market leader.

The departure of Computer Active deputy editor Dylan Armbrust to

Future Publishing has prompted speculation that Future is either going

to launch a new PC title of its own or relaunch existing titles to go

head to head with the current market leader.



As well as steering clear of technical jargon, Computer Active - the

UK’s biggest selling computer magazine established in 1998 - immediately

sets itself apart from its rivals in that it comes out once a fortnight

and has a cheaper cover price at pounds 1.20.



Although Future Publishing’s Nathan Berkley refused to confirm that

Future was considering launching a direct competitor to Computer Active,

he admitted looking at either changing the frequency of his existing

monthly titles or launching new weekly or fortnightly titles.



Editors of the older titles - traditionally glossy monthlies appealing

to business users and home enthusiasts - acknowledge the huge effect

that the internet is having on driving sales of PCs and therefore on the

content of their magazines. But many say that, in terms of language,

audiences in general have become more familiar with computer jargon and

need less explanation. ’As computers have moved into the home, so people

have become more intelligent and well-versed in technology,’ says James

Morris, editor of PC Pro.



Sheryl Seitz, a director at ’consumer tech’ agency Bite Communications,

whose clients include Apple, believes that the PC press will eventually

split into two main types: the glossy ’premier publication’ monthlies

and the cheaper fortnightly or weekly titles, in direct relation to the

shift in emphasis happening in the PC market.



’There has been a tremendous surge of people buying machines to get on

to the internet and people will want their magazines to be more hands-on

so that they get more out of the experience,’ she says.



’People are much more open to trying new things with their computers

now, such as web cameras, so they will want titles that can cover things

much more quickly, to keep pace with new developments.’



However, analysts predict that in approximately the next five years,

there will only be roughly five major computer manufacturers left and so

nuances between products are likely to become blurred. Some experts

believe that as this happens, although there will be more people with

home computers than ever before, the number of actual enthusiasts is

bound to decline.





COMPUTER ACTIVE



Jim Lennox



Position: Editor



Publisher: VNU



Frequency: Fortnightly



ABC: 325,823 (Jan to Dec 1999)



’We are aimed at home computer buyers and users and are designed to be

very easy to understand. We are endorsed by the Campaign for Plain

English.



We are dedicated to telling readers how to get the best out of their

computer.



’The section that really typifies us is our Workshop section, which

offers a step-by-step guide to doing certain things. Our features are in

a similar vein but with more background information.



’We also have a performance testing section, which also explains the

basics about products such as printers. And, unlike many other PC

magazines we have a regular technology feature which will cover a

related technology such as WAP.’





PERSONAL COMPUTER WORLD



Nik Rawlinson



Position: Deputy editor



Publisher: VNU



Frequency: Monthly



ABC: 146,704 (July-Dec 1999)



’Our readers are predominantly male and split between home users and

business users. The magazine has been going for 22 years and now you can

see that the focus is very much on internet and e-commerce compared to

say five years ago.



’Every month we do three group tests. We will take, say, 14 PCs for web

developers and compare them. We will send an invite out to all the key

players and the first 14 that come through the door that work and meet

the spec, we will review. Our features are more issues-led. For example

we have one coming up on protecting your privacy on the net.



’We also have a ’hands on’ section, which tells you what you can do with

your PC once you have everything you need.’





PC ADVISOR



Andrew Charlesworth



Position: Editor



Publisher: IDG



Frequency: Monthly



ABC: 160,096 (July-Dec 1999)



’We are aimed at both business and consumers. It is a bit of a hybrid

audience with the PC-proficient manager of small businesses and we have

seen a growth in silver surfers.



’Expert advice in plain English, is probably as close as we come to a

mission statement although it is difficult to avoid jargon all of the

time.



’We are not targeting IT news junkies so our news analyses will focus on

issues that we think will affect the largest number of readers. We have

product reviews which include buying guides and our features are quite

often product-related, but tend to deal with real-life situations.



They are very practical and will cover issues such as how to post your

photos up on-line.’





PR PRO



James Morris



Position: Editor



Publisher: Dennis Publishing



Frequency: Monthly



ABC: 165,957 (July-Dec 1999)



’Our readership is a cross-section between those who do the IT buying at

work and home enthusiasts. The reason we are so successful is because

the home user needs the same advice as the business user.



’We have two or three lab tests a month where we get as many examples of

particular products as we can to see which products work the best and

which are best value. We will test new products in the reviews section,

but PR people should talk to us about it first and let us have the

product for at least a few weeks so that we can test it properly

ourselves.



’The ’Real World’ at the back of the magazine is unique in that it is

written by IT consultants and gives their experiences,hints and tips.’



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