Cutting to the 'gut feeling'

Well, here we are then - we've changed our look. I do hope you like it.

Well, here we are then — we’ve changed our look. I do hope you like it. Enough said? Oops, I haven’t told you about all the intensive customer research that went into the changes, how we analysed what stories you like to read, how we did studies on how to make the paper easier to navigate and so on. If only the world worked like that. Business by numbers. Using computers would make us millions. Once upon a time it seemed you could predict business from year to year and run most of it by the numbers. It didn’t seem to change much. You could guess the impact of trends using charts and make straightforward sensible decisions about what to do next month, next year and for the next five years. Machines took away the repetitive physical aspect of work and computers are taking away the repetitive intellectual aspect. All the mental arithmetic that once seemed to epitomise business is being codified and systemised, to send down digital communication links to automatically interact with someone else’s mental arithmetic. What’s left will be that which computers aren’t good at. Complex brain stuff dealing with strategic issues and with people’s behaviour. What’s left will be jobs that only people can do. Jobs about human communication. Jobs about strategic direction. Jobs requiring a lot of "gut feeling", because the calculations will have already been done. It’s another step toward isolating what it really means to be human. Back to the research Getting back to the research we do for Computerworld. Well, yes, we do it. We have our own formal subscriber surveys. We subscribe to industry reader surveys. We conduct less formal "qualitative" research. One day such research may lead to publishing changes happening automatically, especially in the online world with the concept of personalised news services. But this information could never totally determine our product and when it comes to creating a newspaper for the breadth even of our specialised readership the ability to make logical decisions based strictly on this information is quite limited. So when it comes to a redesign we cut to the gut feeling built up through our general understanding of the research and through our deeper human understanding of what you want. To develop this latest look we brought back our designer, Jonathan King, who knew the paper from a previous encounter. We threw at him the gut feelings of people here who have been in the business a while. He applied his gut feelings and, hey presto, a smart, authoritative, progressive publication. The funny thing about reader research is that it can help you decide what isn’t working, but it doesn’t tend to clarify much about what you need to add. We’ve got plenty of research that shows the popularity of the news section. We know the relative standings of our opinion columns (actually they are all similarly popular). We are very aware of which feature subjects and issues are hot and which are not. On the other hand, we have no specific research on what your desire might be for our new "News Features". Starting from this issue one of these in-depth news-oriented articles will follow our opinion pages each issue (page 14 this week). Our chief reporter Andrea Malcolm is now focusing on writing and commissioning these articles using her seven years’ experience on Computerworld. Malcolm will also develop further our News Review section. Similarly, we’re also interested to see how our new World News section appeals. We’re selecting particular stories from our comprehensive internal wire service for publication alongside our late news (see inside back cover). IDG publishes IT publications in over 70 countries and my feeling is you will benefit significantly from a carefully selected roundup. Overseeing this latest news development and taking on the responsibility for our local news section at the front of the paper is Justine Banfield. Banfield came aboard our editorial team in April as copy-editor and has been responsible for ensuring the quality of our local reporting for the last four months. She will continue to focus on the quality of our local news and will be able to further apply her experience from daily newspapers. Finally, reviewing the changes we’ve made this year so far I trust you’ve found them valuable. We set up the "Forum" section to give letters a higher profile. This has been a huge success. We started a "Late News" section to cram in even more hot IT news. We also consolidated all the miscellaneous subject pages to create our "News Review" section and expanded our careers coverage. We’re continually looking to develop the publication and build up our understanding of IT managers and IT professionals. If you have any suggestions for changes in the publication, or just want to say you like it exactly how it is, please don’t hesitate to email them to me. Your opinion counts. Don’t hesitate, email me at richard_wood@idg.co.nz. For publication in Computerworld, please send a copy of your letters to cw_letters@idg.co.nz

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