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'PC Week' days are numbered

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Instant branding in the new economy: Just add "e."

That's the approach New York-based Ziff Davis Media Inc. used with PC Week, which becomes eWeek beginning with its May 8 issue.

Other Ziff Davis PC publications are tinkering with their brands this year, too. PC Computing will change to Smart Business with its May issue, and PC Magazine, Ziff Davis' flagship, added an "Internet Business" section.

"It's an acknowledgment that the marketplace has changed and that PCs are a commodity product," says Gwyn Thakur, senior VP-corporate communications, Carat Freeman, a technology media buying shop based in Newton, Mass.

The moves also appear to be an acknowledgment that new economy magazines, such as International Data Group's Industry Standard and Imagine Media's Business 2.0, are poaching ad pages from the traditional PC publications.

PC Week's ad pages fell 27%, from 1,257.51 to 917.67, between the first quarter of 1999 and the first quarter of this year, according to Adscope Inc., a Eugene, Ore.-based tracking service. PC Magazine dropped 34%, from 1,213.42 pages to 805.30, over the same period. And PC Computing dipped 27%, from 546.50 to 401.57. At the same time, the upstart The Industry Standard, enjoying explosive 542% growth, had more ad pages in the first quarter--1,754.90--than any of Ziff Davis' PC publications.

Ziff Davis' new chairman-president-CEO James Dunning quickly green-lighted the changes proposed by the individual titles. "Better late than never," says Thakur, who supports PC Week's shift to eWeek and points out that PC Week long ago ceased to be a PC-only publication and was covering networking and other technologies for IT departments.

"We were there, but we weren't getting credit for it. It's been a long time since we've had a picture of a PC on the front page," says Eric Lundquist, the magazine's editor in chief.

Promotion wheels turning

eWeek will promote its new name with a print campaign debuting in The Wall Street Journal and by showering its readers with interactive and direct mail missives.

Sloan Seymour, VP-publisher of PC Week, says the eWeek rebranding adds to the magazine's tagline, "Building the .com Enterprise," which was adopted last year.

Research indicated that 75% of current PC Week readers would spend more time with the rebranded magazine, Seymour says.

Not everyone is convinced. "I think they shouldn't be so quick to walk away from their heritage. The PC Week name has a lot of meaning, maybe eWeek will also, but it's a lot to gamble on," says Amy Stettler, partner and associate media director-IBM Worldwide for Ogilvy & Mather, New York.

She also is skeptical of PC Computing's planned move to Smart Business, which Ziff Davis presents as a magazine that will explain the benefits of technology to executives, positioning it between PCWorld and other trade publications, Business 2.0 and other new economy magazines, and Fortune and other business books.

"I don't see the need for another e-business book, which is what Smart Business is claiming to be," Stettler says.

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