And the first shall be last …

Asking questions can be a dangerous business at times. Of course, journalists usually have some immunity as it's normally us doing the asking. So when we deliberately go out and ask lots of questions about ourselves, we are understandably nervous about the outcome.

Asking questions can be a dangerous business at times. Of course, journalists usually have some immunity as it’s normally us doing the asking. So when we deliberately go out and ask lots of questions about ourselves, we are understandably nervous about the outcome.

Last month we asked an independent market researcher to run focus groups of

Computerworld readers and get them talking about their consumption of IT media, what they want online, what they want in print, what they like, what they dislike and what they really, really loathe. We also asked them about Computerworld.

Focus group participants were drawn from a cross-section of readers and included CIOs, senior IT managers and those in technical and non-technical roles. Our market researcher said she had two problems in running the focus groups. The first was to get the participants talking. The second was to get them to stop.

Of course, there was much shock and horror at

Computerworld when we were told that readers loathe advertorials, dislike vendor hype and can’t stand stories that have a whiff of PR.

Other reader negatives included “bad news” stories that didn’t also offer insight into why an IT project failed, US "press releases" that weren’t relevant to New Zealand, article fragmentation (turn to page four) -– and shiny paper. Apparently it’s too hard to read under fluorescent lighting.

It wasn’t all bad, though.

Computerworld received praise for its strong online presence and overall industry news rated well, as did our coverage of HR and recruitment issues. More human interest and people stories were high on the wanted list, along with high-end technical reviews and comparisons.

But most of all you want more gossip, rumours and generally contentious coverage –- sort of an E-tales with a bad attitude.

I’m sorry but we couldn’t possibly do gossip, contention or rumour -– we’re responsible journalists ...

Based on the feedback from the focus groups and an

online survey that we are currently running, you can expect to see some changes in Computerworld over the coming weeks and months.

For starters there’ll be more gossip. For example: Gen-i is bidding for an IT services company, IBM is going to licence OS X from Apple and unbundling will no longer be an issue -- the government is buying back Telecom. (At last, no more unbundling stories!)

Expect to see more heavyweight technical coverage, reviews and comparisons, driven by newly appointed technical editor Matthew Cooney. Randal Jackson joins Stephen Bell in Wellington -– Bell will do the reporting and Jackson will cover the nightlife in the capital. David Watson has a remit to hound ERP and CRM companies into admitting that the technology doesn’t really matter but people and project management skills do. Kirstin Mills will edit an expanded HR, careers and recruitment section in the paper and I’ll be focusing on the editorials.

Which brings me to my final point: close to the top of the list in the “no value/low category” from the focus groups was the editorial column, so I guess this is not only the first editorial I write as managing editor of

Computerworld, but may well be the last.

It was good while it lasted …

PS: To those nice, friendly PR people who contacted me last week: I really, really do believe that your clients’ products and services are the best in the world.

How about we leave it at that? I’ll call you if I need something …

Casement is the publisher and new managing editor of Computerworld.

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