With that in mind, PC World rolled out a major redesign with its September issue. The redesign, just ahead of the IDG Communications magazine's 25th anniversary next year, includes a revamped cover design and several new editorial sections.
"It was clear we needed to make several changes in a world that's more print-Web- centric than ever before," said Harry McCracken, VP-editor in chief of PC World. "We used to be a magazine that had a Web site. Now, we're a Web site that has a magazine."
The changes are designed to more closely link the print edition of PC World with its online companion. For example, the new "Business Center" section provides details about the latest product and service information on PCWorld.com's PCW Business Center.
Gone is the publication's news section, replaced by "Forward," which focuses on breakthrough products and trends affecting buying decisions. "Security Alert," another new section, is devoted to the latest security threats and tools for combating them. New columns, all written in a hands-on vein, include "Beta Watch," "Download This," "GeekTech" and "Tech at Work."
Features such as "Consumer Watch," "Here's How" and "Reviews & Rankings" live on.
"The old magazine was a bit dense and felt a little like homework," McCracken said. "Now, it's less dense, with shorter items. In focus groups, readers told us, `You don't have to put everything in the magazine.' "
For example, in the previous incarnation of PC World, product reviews in print "would go on forever," McCracken said. "Now, we'll have the Top 10 laptops and more detailed reviews online."
Like many IT publications, PC World continues to struggle on the ad front. Through September, ad pages fell 8% compared with the same period last year, according to IMS/The Auditor. Ad revenue declined 7%. Circulation currently stands at 710,000, down from 850,000 in 2006.
Michael Carroll, PC World senior VP-group publisher, said the magazine has had an "uptick" in ad sales heading into the final quarter, but he would not provide specifics.
Carroll said the redesign had sparked more integrated ad sales. "We're seeing more synergy between print and online because there's more opportunity for advertisers who want to invest in both properties," he said. "The advantage for any publisher with a print publication is that the more you can drive people online the more opportunity there is to give advertisers better reach."
Steven Rosenfield, a principal with the Media Resource Group, a consulting firm, applauded PC World's move. "IDG has been at the forefront of successfully managing the transition of stand-alone print magazines to online media supported by print," said Rosenfield, who had stints at both IDG and Ziff Davis Media. "You have to lead with the Web, where it's easier to monetize."
McCracken said other changes are in the works. "We'll tweak as we go along," he said. "What we have learned from the Web is that once you have done a redesign the fun is just beginning, and you need to listen to customers about what they like and dislike about the new format."