ZDplans 'PC Computing' revamp

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PC Computing, in what it is calling a "relaunch," plans to unveil a redesign and a shift in editorial focus with its December issue. The revamp is intended to make the Ziff-Davis monthly magazine stand out in a crowded field of publications covering business and technology.

PC Computing Publisher Greg Mason said the magazine's research shows that despite the proliferation of product-focused personal computer publications, Internet industry trade magazines and business biweeklies covering technology, there is a niche that has not been filled.

He said no magazine currently shows businesspeople how to use technology to better the bottom line. PC Computing, which has a circulation of more than 1 million, plans to fill this how-to niche.

"It's not how-to from a tips standpoint for certain products," Mr. Mason explained. "It's more how-to focused on everyday business problems and how technology can solve them."

New sections planned

New features will include:

• A bevy of new sections, such as "Radar," which replaces new-product reviews and will focus on the business productivity implications of new technologies.

• A New York bureau to cover Silicon Alley.

• A complete redesign, which was overseen by two former Outside magazine art directors and will keep the product shots to a minimum. "People know what a computer looks like," Mr. Mason said. "We want to highlight people."

The relaunch reflects a shift that PC Computing has explored recently. "In the past year," Mr. Mason said, "we've moved from product reviews to analysis of what does the product do for you, how can you use the product to help your bottom line, and how will it help you implement your strategy."

The shift has already begun to pay off, he said, pointing to PC Computing's 50,000 new paid readers. The growth was largely fueled by subscribers at the management level, whose focus has shifted to coping with the onslaught of technology.

The new editorial focus has attracted new advertisers beyond PC manufacturers, such as Ford Motor Co., Oldsmobile, Visa and SAP.

The hope is that the shift to a more management-oriented publication can pull the magazine out of its slide. Like many tech magazines, PC Computing's ad pages fell in the first half of this year to 1,044.4, a decline of 15% when compared with the same period last year, according to Adscope, a Eugene, Ore.-based tracking service.

"I do think the market needs more of solutions-oriented, return-on-investment information," said Kelly Konis White, media director at McCann-Erickson/A&L, San Francisco, which handles Microsoft Corp. "PC Computing has the right idea. I know that my advertisers are interested in reaching these folks."

Shift in focus

Ms. Konis White commented, however, that PC Computing maybe hasn't gone far enough. "I was kind of expecting them to change their name."

Mr. Mason said the magazine may change its name eventually.

Jeff Edman, publisher of International Data Group's PC World, the largest PC magazine, with a circulation rate base of 1.25 million, is comfortable with his publication's product focus, which he says is backed by research.

"One of the things [our readers] really like is the product coverage, the product testing, comparative reviews," he said.

Sam Whitmore, editor of "Sam Whitmore's Media Survey," said PC Computing's planned changes make sense internally for Ziff-Davis, as the shift in editorial focus will create less cannibalization with Ziff-Davis' other PC publications.

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