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21th April 1997
Advertorial or not? (part 2)
It looks as if last week's Aardvark really put the cat amongst the pigeons with respect to the issue of advertorialism in the print-publishing industry.

Martin Taylor of IDG has sent Aardvark a Right of Reply and it's worth a read. It includes a copy of a letter sent to PC Magazine, which it appears PC Magazine has decided not to publish.

So now we have allegations of defamation and demands for retractions and apologies from IDG while PC Magazine remains unreactive.

In an effort to get to the bottom of the claims and counter-claims I bought the current (April) issues of both PC World and PC Magazine and spent some time scrutinising the contents.

I'm on the fence
It is my intention to remain neutral in this whole issue so the following observations and comments should be considered totally non-partisan. Although I have written for IDG and talk at some of their conference/seminar events - we're also agressively competing with each other in the Web-based publishing arena.

no side taken
The top 20 that isn't a top 20 at all
PC World this month
After reading Martin's letter to PC Magazine in which he highlights the importance of more than just raw performance in establishing the ratings from the PC World NZ Test center I was very surprised to see that on page 98 we have the Bill Leckie Hornet PCW achieving exactly the same score as the highest awared in PC World's "Top 20" list (on page 104) which is the IBM PC330 P-133. Why then hasn't the Bill Leckie machine displaced the PC Direct 570Ax P133 that currently holds second place in the Top 20 list with a lower score?

A quick check indicates that PC direct have a full-page colour ad on the back page while Bill Leckie has just a quarter page black and white ad hidden away on page 147.

In fact the Bill Leckie machine should have placed ahead of the TL Systems Explorer P200+ (full page ad on the inside of the latest IDG's Computer Buyer) the Dell Optiplex and Dell Dimension (two full-page colour ads on pages 24-25 and providers of the machine for the subscriber-contest between pages 80 and 81) and a number of other "name-brand" machines with larger advertising budgets but much lower overall test-lab scores.

Does this mean there's an advertorial bias? Maybe not - I see no ads from the number-one ranked IBM in this month's PC World or last week's Computerworld, but they have been big spenders in the past and do take banner-space on IDG's web-site.

Of course I'm not suggesting for one second that this is anything more than coincidence - although others are free to disagree.

If I were Bill Leckie though, I'd be bitching and demanding my place in the Top 20!

PC Magazine this month
So, is PC Mag without sin?

It's a lot harder to judge PC Magazine from this month's issue Well in the review of MMX PCs starting on page 52, the Dell machines (2 full pages of colour ads on pages 58-59) get Editor's Choice on page 54.

Is it coincidence that the only advertiser to take a two-page full-colour spread is also the one that gets "Editor's Choice"?

Perhaps (in the case of both magazines) it is ... It could always be argued that the most successful computer vendor becomes the most successful due to the quality of its product and service. Being the most successful might also allow them the revenues to afford the most advertising.

Whatever the answer - it's good to see the whole issue brought out into the open and discussed in public.

Cause or effect?
Never trust a computer
Aardvark moves to Invercargill?
Well that's what the Lycos City Guide has told me - and the rest of the world.

If you've been watching the wires you'll realise that everyone who's anyone is busy building a "City Guide" site. These sites are designed to be on-line indexes to towns and cities around the world. Supposedly even the big names like Microsoft believe there's a buck to be made by creating an index to the local resources and events in an area and sticking it on the Web.

Well Lycos has obviously scanned its databases and come up with what it believes are the important web sites in NZ - probably based on the frequency of links from other sites and the geographical location of those sites.

So... Aardvark is now a "local resource" in Invercargill and Queenstown but not in Auckland, Wellington, Hamilton or Christchurch. 7am News faired a little better with a mention in most of the main centres.

To add further insult to injury, it appears that New Zealand is relegated to a position subordinate to Australia. The URL for the NZ section is: http://cityguide.lycos.com/australia/newzealand/.

Do you want some pulp?
I'm very much aware that many executives and decision-makers find it difficult to put aside the time necessary to keep up with events in the Internet industry via Web-based publications such as Aardvark.

More often than not, spare moments are not to be found in front of a computer screen and for all it's merits, the Net still hasn't come close to replacing ink on paper when it comes to convenience.

For this reason - I'm floating the prospect of publishing a weekly Net Industry summary in print form. Produced as a subscription-only "Industry Letter" aimed at those who need to stay informed about the Net, it's technology, people, products and services (local and international coverage) without wading through a mass of advertising and irrelevent other stories.

Anyone interested can drop me an email and I'll send you more info on price and content.

What? Ink and paper you say?

I Can't Believe It's True!
It's either an amazing coincidence or someone's got a hell of a sense of humour. Read the title and author of the last book in the list at the end of this press release on the Yahoo site...

That's naughty!

Right Of Reply

Martin Taylor of IDG replies to last week's "Advertorial or Not?" story

Martin says...

including a

letter to PC Magazine

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