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1 September 1997
More pulp friction
This week's topic isn't directly Internet related - but I think it is important to the Net because the publications involved have become the vector by which many of the "unconnected" get information about all things Internet.

Earlier in the year we saw a battle of words break out between NZ PC World (aka IDG) and NZ PC Magazine (now defunct) - indeed, this column, it appeared, was the main forum in which the battle was publicly waged.

Well guess what... NZ PC World is in the news again and its major competitor, Bits & Bytes (aka Industrial Press) is keen to take advantage of the chance to push its own barrow.

I don't know about you but I've always felt a little difficult to swallow the claims that PC World achieves a readership of 100,000+ readers from a circulation of just over 1/10th that figure, a concern I first voiced during the last publisher's battle back in March. Is it true that TEN people read each and every copy of PC World? I know that my copy (when I buy one) is only read by me, and I suspect that's true for the vast majority of other copies purchased for private consumption - which means that a smaller percentage of copies must be read by a huge number of people!

Well it seems that this skepticism may have been well-founded. The latest readership survey by AC Nielson McNair (from which the PC World figures have actually been withheld) is rumoured to show a huge drop (some 40%) in the readership figures for the NZ edition of PC World. At the same time, the circulation figures given by IDG indicate that they've actually increased sales by 1,300 copies per issue.

How can this be?

Well it depends on who you listen to.

Some are saying that the old surveying methods were flawed and introduced confusion between different magazine titles or mastheads, effectively inflating the readership figures previously returned for NZ PC World.

Even regular readers often find themselves saying PC Magazine when they mean PC World or have difficulty distinguishing between PC World NZ and PC World USA when flashed a copy of the cover.

Apparently the latest survey attempted to overcome this confusion by presenting respondents with four different magazine mastheads (2 NZ, 2 USA) instead of just the NZ PC World one. The result has been that PC World's readership figures as reported by the survey have dropped so much that at least one media-commentary rumoured the publication may be dropped from future surveys.

PC World NZ is not alone in having allegedly benefited in the past from user-confusion, it seems that similarly flawed US surveys indicated that the US edition of PC World was achieving a pass-on rate of over 200. Now I don't know about you but when I see the sorry state of magazines at the local library - having passed through only 30-40 sets of hands I'm sure that they'd have to print PC World USA on some "unobtanium-enriched" paper to make it last even half the claimed distance!

confusion reigns

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on my left...
IDG Responds
In an official release from IDG it's claimed that that the issue of title-confusion is not likely to have affected previous surveys but that it may well be affecting the latest one.

IDG say that only 350 copies per month of the US PC World magazine are sold in NZ (although they don't say whether this includes direct subscriptions as well as bookstand sales) and that this represents just 2.6% of the audited sales of NZ PC World.

If IDG are correct in their assertion, what does this say about the effectiveness of PC World NZ's branding and the average PC World reader's ability to distinguish between their favourite local magazine and "the rest"?

The opposition says..
When approached by Aardvark for comment, Phil Ryan, Managing Director of Industrial Press iterated his goal of reclaiming the number one spot with the Bits & Bytes magazine.

He goes on to say "The US edition of PC World is a great magazine, probably with a strong following here - indeed I read it myself as I get the full unedited articles and often before they are covered in the NZ edition".

Ryan claims that until the last audited circulation survey (June 1997), NZ PC World had been declining in circulation since 1995 according to the published ABC figures and that the latest ABC figures are still lower than in 1995.

"Bits & Bytes is on track to regaining the number one spot. I would predict this will happen in the next 6 - 12 months" was his closing comment.

and on my right...

The truth is out there!
What's the truth?
So who do we believe? Were previous survey results affected by title-confusion or, as IDG would have us believe, has the confusion only occurred since the survey methods were changed - thus invalidating the most recent figures?

Will Bits & Bytes displace PC World from the throne of being the number one NZ PC monthly?

Is a 10:1 reader/circulation ratio realistic? Martin Taylor of IDG claims that there are many organisations which put such publications on a circulation list, thus boosting the figure - but I've worked in some pretty big companies and the circulation lists are seldom more than 10-20 long and one must wonder how many of the 13,729 copies sold each month would fall into this category anyway.

Even I, the guy that predicted nine months ago that MS would buy into Apple <gratuitous boast>, won't take a punt on this one - so I'm going to ask YOU for some information that might help us find the real truth.

Please take a few moments to complete this survey, the results of which will be published in next Friday's Aardvark Daily and might give us some insight into what's really going on here.

Of course <evil grin>, if either party feels I've misrepresented the conversations I've had with them, or if they have extra information to ad to that presented here then by all means please send me some email.

Please fill out the survey

I Can't Believe It's True!

Many people claim Microsoft's products are overpriced, underperforming and even just plain lousy. Well It seems they are perfect for building that impressive new house.

Look what Windows built!

Who'd have thought there was this much money in writing software for these new-fangled microcomputer thingies?

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