Aardvark Daily
PC World, PC Magazine publishers in battle of words
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It was an article published in this issue of Aardvark Weekly which sparked what has become a battle of claims and counterclaims between New Zealand's two most popular magazines.

PC World, which has for some time claimed to hold the high-ground in terms of readership took offense at inferences made in PC Magazine's columnist Vikki Bland's April column.

The argument centres on how "fair" the PC World Top 20 PC reviews are, with Bland implying a "cosy" relationship between PC World and PC Direct, a company whose products consistently score high on the list despite not having the highest performance ratings. PC World's response is that the ratings are a mix of multiple factors of which raw performance is only one.

This is not the first time the legitimacy of PC World's Top 20 reviews have been called into question with IDG's own Web site carrying a message from a reader bearing the title Top 20 PC's farce.

The present exchange of views between the parties risks dissolving into a cat-fight and this writer for one is surprised that they didn't simply keep their heads down and keep quiet about the whole issue. Instead, the story has now made the mainstream press with the NZ Herald's "new" IT section carrying a piece on the fight in its Tuesday edition (although I notice that no acknowledgement was given to Aardvark for bringing the matter to the public's attention).

So, here's the list of correspondence which has been flowing through Aardvark's "right of reply" and "letters to the editor" mailboxes:

There were some other letters but these were not addressed to 'editor' or 'Right of Reply' so have not been published here.

So, why are print-media publishers embroiled in this battle of claim and counter-claim?

It seems that PC World and PC Magazine have an almost equal share of what is in New Zealand, a relatively small market. A circulation of less than 20,000 copies is by anyone's reckoning - not a lot and even though readership figures are quoted as around 100,000 (can each copy really be read by around 10 people?), this is still quite a small number when it comes to separating advertisers from their money.

When the crown of "widest read" or "biggest selling" rests on just a thousand copies or so - it's understandable that both parties are very keen to gain that tiny speck of ground and wear the "Reader's Choice" award.

Whatever the motives and cause, one thing we can be sure of is that the effect of this public sparing match will simply be to sell more copies of both publications as the public try to see for themselves exactly where the truth lies ("truth lies" - is that an oxymoron?).

Perhaps this story also showcases the value of small web-based publications such as Aardvark. I suspect that neither PC World nor PC Magazine would have started this debate without Aardvark's highlighting the issue and if the exchange of letters were done through their own pages (published but monthly) it would have been a very slow and protracted discussion.

Aardvark will keep readers informed as to any further happenings.

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