Beautiful music from editor and his orchestra

What is it that you want from us? To keep your interest, and retain you as subscribers, we realise Computerworld has to serve up content that compels you to read on. Knowing exactly what that content is can be a bit baffling at times.

Dear Readers,

What is it that you want from us? To keep your interest, and retain you as subscribers, we realise Computerworld has to serve up content that compels you to read on. Knowing exactly what that content is can be a bit baffling at times. We arrive at the mix of stories we do deliver by a combination of our journalists' accumulated knowledge of the industry (more than 50 years of it), watching technology trends, studying overseas publications, and guesswork.

We realise guesswork is not a very sound basis for the serious business of publishing so we try to minimise reliance on it as we compose Computerworld. I use the word compose advisedly since putting the paper together each week is a little like writing a piece of music: it has a beginning (the news), middle (columns) and end (features).

Computerworld can even claim a coda (the concluding section of a ballet) in the form of E-tales, on the last editorial (as opposed to advertising) page of the publication. If we talk of it as a composition, then that makes the editorial team an orchestra. Our aim can then be said to be to bring music to your ears. The problem remains, though, that we don't precisely know your taste, in music or reading.

Hence the question: what do you want from us? It's one we ask a lot, in a variety of ways of a range of people. Each year we commission a research company to send a questionnaire of our devising to subscribers, which is then analysed for us. We've done it for many years, asking the same basic set of questions, building up a valuable collection of trend data. The latest set of answers to those questions will be returned to us soon.

We also regularly commission ACNielsen to question 500 people (randomly chosen senior managers from a mix of large -- more than 100 employees -- and small -- fewer than 100 staff -- organisations) about the publications they're reading. The most recent survey, reported back to us last October, said 29% of those surveyed found Computerworld the most useful publication in their work. The other titles in the survey were IDG publications PC World and CIO, and MIS, the New Zealand Herald and Infotech Weekly. Computerworld had an eight-point margin on its nearest rival, PC World.

Those are comparatively refined means of finding out what you think of our efforts. A cruder -- but more direct -- bit of research has just been completed and you're reading the results here for the first time. First, the method: we sent out copies of the publication to 50 subscribers who would have received the same issue a day or two earlier. We asked them to go through the issue with a marker pen, highlighting the stories they found useful and those which were a waste of ink. Nine of the 50 did the exercise (you know who you are but, unfortunately, we only know some of your names, and to be able to honour the three-month subscription extension we offered as an incentive, we need you to tell us who you are -- please call home).

What did they tell us? The single most unambiguous message is that briefs -- stories cut down to one or two paragraphs -- are popular; also, stories about how much people earn and changes in the job market score well; so do stories about products developed by New Zealand companies; and local system implementation stories; ones about security issues; those that mention wine; and E-tales, Computerworld's coda, goes down well with the punters.

What are we to take from this? Well, admittedly it was a crude method delivering data wide open to interpretation; but we're choosing to be reassured by the results. Happily, the very content those readers most appreciated is what we're already starting to give you more of.

We've been tweaking the publication here and there in the past month or so, adding a new fortnightly columnist, IT manager Jim Swanson, who appears in this issue for the second time. Jim's job in A Week of IT is to entertain you with the travails and insights of a manager at the coal face -- or rock face; his employer owns quarries -- of IT.

We're also writing regularly about job openings under the heading Job Lot, the second of which appears in this issue. The purpose is to describe an available position to which readers might aspire, or which might give an IT manager inspiration for changing the way his or her department is organised.

We're also profiling top IT people, describing how they got where they are, hopefully offering hints for readers eager to climb the career ladder.

On top of that we're going to continue dosing you up on technology stories, since we know that's what you come to us for before all else. The most popular story for those in our mark-up test was one about wireless technology, with a security angle. We like to believe we tell those well, and with authority (our other research says so!). Everyone has their own opinion, of course, and taste. The surest way of having yours catered to by Computerworld is to let us know what you like and don't like. If it's not music to your ears, please tell us.

Doesburg is Computerworld's editor. Send email to Anthony Doesburg. Send letters for publication to Computerworld Letters.

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