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‘Computerworld’ enters middle age

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Born when the Internet was just a glimmer in the eyes of a few techies in the U.S. Department of Defense, Computerworld is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year.

The weekly magazine, one of the first launches by technology publisher International Data Group, journeys on as many of the software magazines it spawned, such as Byte and Communications Insider, have fallen by the wayside.

And, while several of the Internet-related magazines that thrived in the late 1990s have folded or are struggling, Computerworld’s ad pages are on the upswing. Through the first half of 2002, Computerworld’s ad pages rose 12% compared with the same period last year. New print advertisers included Autonomy Corp., Brio Corp., Finisar Corp., Palm Inc. and Vignette Corp.

The increase in ad pages follows Computerworld’s decision earlier this year to reduce its circulation to provide a richer target for advertisers, a gamble that appears to have paid off.

Less circ, bigger spenders

In February, Computerworld slashed its circulation to 180,000 controlled and 20,000 paid, down from 215,000 and 35,000, respectively. As a result of the cut in circulation, subscribers who have spending authority of more than $250,000 (within an IT unit) jumped to 96% from 68%, according to Sherry Driscoll, senior VP-associate publisher of Computerworld.

"The intent of the circ changes was to deliver the sweet spots," she said. "Advertisers are no longer taking out shotguns and scattering their messages across several publications. They’re more interested in laser-focused, targeted advertising, and that’s what we offer."

Advertisers hawking software products said the circulation reduction was a wise move. "The circulation only got better," said Laura Wilson, director of advertising strategy at SAS Institute Inc., which has been running ads in Computerworld since 1976. "They got back to their roots and are now delivering a stronger CPM."

Wilson added that the magazine has stuck to its editorial guns by keeping its focus on midsize companies. "About five years ago the game started about who can get the most subscribers," she said. "But we’re interested in midsize companies, which are CW’s subscriber base, and we want to talk directly to their needs."

Generates results

Rick Deutsch, director of marketing at InterSystems Corp., which has been running ads in Computerworld for the past six years, said the magazine generated a significant response rate for a recent ad campaign plugging a free version of the company’s software. "It’s primarily geared to CIOs and CTOs, and they are our target," he said.

Although the title may have seemed dowdy during the go-go 1990s, Computerworld has never lost its appeal among technology advertisers. "People who really own the IT budgets and the strategies are the CW readers," said Bill Sell, VP-brand and customer development for CeBit America, a U.S. version of a German-based trade show that will launch here in June 2003. CeBit America is planning a major advertising campaign early next year, and Sell expects Computerworld to be an important part of the marketing mix. "We want to make sure we capture enough of the enterprise buyers," he said.

AT&T Business’ "Return on Communication" campaign ran in Computerworld for eight issues before it ended this month, and the magazine is atop the company’s list for a b-to-b ad campaign to be launched next year.

"Unlike other publications that have tried to guess what the trends are, CW has evolved as the technologies have evolved," said Jeff Bauer, media director at AT&T Business. "While it’s wonderful to read about new technologies online, in the end, mainstream enterprise computing is what it’s all about, and that’s what CW has been providing for the last 35 years."

Scott Peters, managing director of media investment bank Jordan Edmiston Group Inc., said Computerworld’s longevity is a plus, particularly when times are tight. "They have strong relationships with their advertisers, and you’re not going to cut a magazine that’s tried and true," Peters said. "It’s the No. 2s, 3s and 4s in the market that will suffer."

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