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State of the magazine address

Everyone should use the bully pulpit once in a while.

Those who watched the State of the Union address this past week were probably not surprised by the content of President Bush’s speech, aside from the commitment to helping AIDS victims in Africa and drug addicts in the United States. But all of us are a little perplexed at the ritualistic context. It seems modeled after a Christian ceremony–except instead of saying “Amen,” the attendees clap; and instead of singing “Hallelujah,” they give a standing ovation. When the President brought up tax cuts, I half expected everyone to genuflect. Nowhere in democratic political discourse is so much reverence given to one speaker. This got me thinking, if it works for him, perhaps it will work for me. So here goes.

“Mr. publisher, ladies and gentlemen of the staff, my fellow netizens. While we face unprecedented challenges in the toughest print advertising market since the turn of the 20th century, the state of the magazine is strong. (Everyone claps) We have strengthened the editorial content with my ambitious Q&As, which feature interviews with prominent executives from companies such as Cisco, Red Hat, Microsoft, and IBM. We have added many more how-to columns written by outside experts and reviews written by our intrepid team of staff editors. And we have continued to raise the bar on our existing editorial model with each passing month. (Standing ovation)

“But make no mistake–we face problems no prior magazine administration has faced. We must continue to adapt to the challenging environment by growing reader loyalty. We must seek out new ways of engaging our existing readers. And we must win over more readers every month. In short, we must make ComputerUser a must-read for all users of computer-related products and services. We stand resolute to battle the forces that stand in our way. And we will win. (Standing ovation)

“Our toughest challenge relates to the advertising market. Though our readers have never been more loyal to our publication, they are not in a position to invest in new technology. Consequently, advertisers do not get the response from their ads to which they are accustomed. This leads to the mistaken impression that we are not reaching the audience we claim to be reaching. We must counter this myth with zeal and grace. We must convince the champions of the computer industry that the loyal readers of this publication will remember their ads and will come back to them when they are in a position to invest in new technology. Only through continued presence in our magazine will advertisers make these lasting impressions on our readers. If they advertise now, they will benefit later. (Everyone claps)

“While this effort may be enough to sustain us, it will not do enough to help us grow. We cannot rest in strengthening our readership and its loyalty. I have sent our executive team an ambitious plan, developed with the help of many of our staff members on both sides of the editorial/advertising aisle. The plan calls for a strengthened focus on consumer electronics, especially wireless gadgets, computer games, and convergence. (Everyone claps) We know that our audience consists of the most concentrated force of gadgeteers, computer gamers, and digital-entertainment mavens on the planet. Up until now, we have focused on the information they need to do their day jobs–trends in business internetworking, training, hardware, and software. They have long sought information for the rest of their digital lives elsewhere. We will deliver that information to them and we will grow as a result. (Standing ovation)

“With the blessings of our executive team, we will begin our extended coverage of wireless gadgets with our April issue. The trends we will focus on include the Wi-Fi Internet phenomenon and the wireless standards wars in the mobile phone market. Our cover story will underscore the emerging wireless Internet, focusing on companies such as Cometa and Boingo. Between Elizabeth Millard’s “Standards alphabet soup” feature and my Q&A with a C-level executive from Qualcomm, we will explore the benefits and drawbacks of CDMA relative to GSM and others. We will also cover the convergence of mobile phones and handheld digital devices in a comparative review of the top phones that also do PDA functions. This will be followed by monthly reviews of handheld wireless devices of all shapes and sizes. Wireless is a cornerstone of the future. We will not just be part of this future; we will take a leadership position in shaping the wireless future. (Standing ovation)

“The central part of our plan will be launched in our May issue, which will feature a new monthly ComputerGamer section devoted to how our readers spend their evenings at play. Paul “Game Master” Hyman will write a monthly column on trends in the gamer space. We will also have a spotlight review of a popular game such as ‘Sim City 4,’ a monthly column on how to soup up your PC for gaming, and short reviews of cheat sites and gaming gadgets. (Everyone claps) Computer games represent the full spectrum of human behavior. But today’s crop of games tend to favor actions that are at best immoral and at worst evil. Those that adequately represent the best of humanity–intelligent and compassionate problem solving–are sadly underrepresented in the press. To the best of our abilities, we will take the high road and spotlight those games that challenge the intelligence and justice of our audience, rather than merely catering to their reflexes and ruthlessness. (Standing ovation) In so doing, we will lead the computer game industry to its full potential as a medium on a par with books, cinema, and the Web. (Everyone claps)

“Again with the blessings of my esteemed colleagues in the executive suite, we will roll out the third part of our plan with our June issue. Users are taking unprecedented control over their entertainment through converged computing, audio, and video. While we have covered this trend when space allows, our business-only focus has prevented us from devoting the continued focus on it that it deserves. Beginning in June, we will fix our keen eyes on this trend and we will not be distracted again. (Everyone claps) Our coverage will kick off with a three-part cover story on the hardware and software needed to turn computers into networked entertainment devices. Thereafter, we will devote monthly editorial coverage to the products and services that help users gain more control over the pictures they take and the television, movies, and music they enjoy. Convergence is the future of computing. We will lead our readers into that future. (Standing ovation)

“Many magazines have forsaken their core mission while chasing fleeting trends. I need not mention those publications here. Netizens reading at home know all too well the once- vaunted publications that succumbed to the siren song of short-lived technologies. We will face different fortunes. The trends outlined above are here to stay. (Everyone claps) But so is business computing. Business computing lies in waiting for many other positive signs, such as a successful resolution of the Iraq issue. But even if war is necessary, we will be victorious and business technology will rise again! (Standing ovation). We will not turn our editorial eye away from business computing as we wait for business investment to pick up. We will continue to cover these trends, such as our focus on small-business technologies in February and e-business Web technologies in March. Even at the pinnacle of our consumer electronic coverage in our May launch of ComputerGamer, we will focus the On Topic feature well on security. In fact, our audience will not see much a drop-off of coverage in technologies for their day jobs. They will only see an increase in coverage for their nightly computing habits. And we will deliver all this additional coverage while incurring merely marginal additional costs! (Standing ovation)

“Mr. Publisher, ladies and gentlemen of the staff, my fellow netizens. The state of our magazine is strong, our editorial is poised for greatness, and our future is indeed bright.”

James Mathewson is editor of ComputerUser magazine and ComputerUser.com.

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