We recently received a letter from a long-time subscriber that thoughtfully raises some concerns about the present composition of COMPUTE!. It is excerpted and addressed here.
"Dear Mr. Lock,
I felt compelled to write to you to express my feelings about the disappointing changes which have been coming over my once favorite magazine, COMPUTE!. I have been reading COMPUTE! since January 1981 and have a subscription which is paid through August 1985.
In recent months, since January 1984, you have been 'spread too thin' by attempting to cover so many types of computers that I feel none have been done adequately. The technical content of the magazine, for the Commodore computers, and computer use in the home, is what had interested me the most, and the quantity and the quality have dwindled so much…".
Our reader goes on to discuss concerns in specific about the breadth of our articles, and the size of our columns. We thought this presented a good opportunity to address these concerns and hopefully explain some of what we see happening from here, and where it will take us.
The Case Of The Dwindling Magazine
In December of 1983, COMPUTE! had 392 pages. This issue, September 1984, has 160. The December issue had 215 pages of advertising; this issue has 60.5. During the course of 1984, we've seen a massive shakeout, not unexpected of course, in the industry. Where there once was an advertiser base of thousands of companies, there is now an advertiser base measured in the hundreds. All well and good, you may say, but is it really a problem or concern for you, the readers? In the sense that we must attend to some economic realities in planning and publishing our magazines, the answer is yes. Do we subjugate our concerns to formula? No, absolutely not.
A typical rule of thumb for the publishing business is a 50/50 advertising mix. As size increases, this ratio gives over to an increased percentage of advertising. In our case, the December 1983 issue of COMPUTE! was over 55 percent advertising. The September issue, by rule of thumb, should be at most 128 pages. Given the overhead we carry in fixed page content (i.e., everything from columns to MLX), this was not acceptable. The result is that our editorial percentage in this issue approaches 65 percent.
Certainly all of this makes sense, but it still doesn't solve the problem/question at hand: more content. What else can we do? We're working on it. In our "fixed overhead" areas, we're whittling down column sizes. We're trying to expand the scope of some columns so they're more useful to more of you. And we're evaluating all of our columns with an eye toward further reductions.
One of your complaints, in essence, is that some of the "meat" of our content is diminished. Upon reflection, I think that's an offshoot of our attempts to provide continued breadth. We probably have a tendency to run shorter articles to enhance variety. The unfortunate by-product of this is that some of the more technical, lengthy articles are bypassed. This we can address immediately, and we will begin to do so with our October issue. We would welcome some additional input from readers. One suggestion here has been that we start to run some of our "fixed" material on an every-other-issue basis. This would mean that "Beginner's Guide To Typing In Programs," for example, might appear on alternate months. We are open to your thoughts. Your comments?
Editor In Chief