Tech magazine shift from gadget glitz to survive
LONDON (Reuters) - Technology magazines, facing dwindling advertising and lost luster for big-ticket gadgets, may be turning their attention to helping readers make home improvements or beef-up devices they already own.
For example, despite lead pieces on the new 42-inch Philips TV and the latest Apple iMac on the UK Website of classic girls-and-gadgets magazine "Stuff", the most-read news includes "5 best Easter DIY (do it yourself) gadgets".
The home improvement items reviewed are a Ryobi rugged radio for listening to in the garden shed, which sells for 22 pounds, and a Stanley organizer toolbox at 40 pounds.
"The recession has obviously sharpened people's minds as to what they're buying," says Stuff's Editor-in-Chief Tom Dunmore. "I do think that people are looking at how they can make more of their technology ... whereas once they might have bought something, played with it for three months and then left it in a drawer," he says.
Dunmore points to the easily upgradeable nature of a new generation of gadgets such as Apple's iPhone, Sony's PlayStation 3, or Nintendo's Wii. Instead of replacing the devices, these can be updated with software, or beefed up with small programs from services like Apple's App Store or one of its rivals.
At IDG, the world's biggest technology media group, Chief Executive Bob Carrigan said readers are more interested in getting the right tools and software to maximize the value of their purchases.
"We acknowledge that consumers have less discretionary income these days, and businesses are under pressure," he says.
IDG has more than 300 print magazines -- including PC World, CIO Magazine and Macworld -- 500 websites, 750 trade events and the IDC research group. Privately held IDG says it reaches more than 200 million technology buyers globally.
The shift in focus comes as the magazine sector itself faces its own problems: shrinking circulations and a steady migration of readers online, as well as advertisers slashing budgets.
In Britain alone, the men's lifestyle market -- which includes the softer end of technology publications -- has seen top magazines Arena and Maxim folding their UK print editions in the last three weeks.
Against this unlikely background, iconic technology and culture magazine Wired relaunched in Britain this month with a marketing budget of 2 million pounds from owners Conde Nast.
"There's quite a strong economic case for launching in a downturn," Editor David Rowan told Reuters Television in an interview (here). "You don't get many opportunists launching against you."
As Stuff magazine's Dunmore puts it: "People can forget about the bad things that are going on in the world and enjoy the things that make them happy. We're very unapologetic, we are very much about gadget joy."
(Reporting by Georgina Prodhan; editing by John Stonestreet)
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