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Computer buyers read more consumer magazines than trade publications but, paradoxically, advertisers can still reach purchasers most efficiently through trade magazines.

That's one finding from the largest media study ever of what computer buyers read and watch, Advertising Age has learned.

The $2.4 million effort by market researcher IntelliQuest of Austin, Texas, has been in the works for more than a year.

The media study is the first intensive look at the consumer market for computer products. Sponsors paid up to $85,000 for survey results. IntelliQuest plans to repeat the Computer Industry Media Study next year. (For survey results, see chart on Page 3.)

Study results should help consumer publications sell computer ads because they show readers of those magazines also buy the machines. Study sponsors, however, included only five consumer publications-Rolling Stone, Newsweek, Popular Science, USA Today and Discover Magazine.

The 24 technology and two business publications sponsors gained great detail on who reads which magazines and what they buy. Sponsors included the three period from fall 1993 through spring 1994.

The margin of error is 1.6%.

"People with influence at work can also be influencers at home," said Peter Zandan, IntelliQuest CEO.

IntelliQuest said about half the home influencers are also business influencers.

That's a key finding for computer publications, which focus on the business market. It means the three largest personal computer publications-PC World, PC Computing and PC Magazine-have evidence that their ads affect buyers in both markets.

"It's a positive for the PC press overall," said Cheryl Brink Curbow, research director at PC World, an IDG publication.

"No matter which way you cut it," said Susan Delman, group marketing director of Ziff-Davis business media group, "the more targeted you are, the more you see real differences emerge between publications in the study."

National Geographic, which had the second broadest reach in the business market by covering 23% of influencers, second only to Reader's Digest's 25%, was pleased by the results. "It confirms what we believed, and it's probably going to be a very useful tool in building the category," said Bill Redmond, advertising research manager.

Although the study found computer buyers read many consumer publications, ad rates in these books mean advertisers must pay a higher cost per thousand than in computer magazines.

According to PC World, the three top PC titles had a $21.85 CPM for business influencers vs. $40.94 for general consumer publications, $52.91 for business press and $53.85 for newsweeklies. By another publisher's calculation, Ziff's Computer Shopper had a $7.69 CPM for business influencers vs. $50.48 in Sports Illustrated.

Computerworld declared itself the winner among computer newsweeklies, which are targeted to corporate technology experts. "Computerworld is the best-read computer trade weekly for computer and network professionals in the United States," said Publisher Gary Beach.

That was disputed by Rolf Wulfsberg, VP-research at Ziff-Davis, which publishes PC Week, a competing weekly sent free to corporate buyers with at least 25 PCs. "I'm not sure it's a great win for Computerworld," he said. "If we thought it was a great win to have, we could triple our number [of readers]."

Buying computers is a highly collaborative process no longer the domain of centralized computing departments. IntelliQuest results show 19.8 million people "influence" computer purchases, but just 1.86 million have jobs that focus primarily on computers. For the consumer market, IntelliQuest concluded that 15.4 million people "influence" the home market, out of some 95 million U.S. households.

"There are still plenty of opportunities left in both markets," said IntelliQuest's Mr. Zandan. "It's clear that there's a higher level of penetration in business than in homes; however, the home market is that much larger."

The data provided few surprises. "This [study] should confirm everyone's viewpoint," said Mr. Zandan. "The only real difference is that it puts all the publications in a perspective that is comparable."

Richard Skews coordinates Marketing Technology.

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