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Computer Reseller News Redesigns, Retargets

CMP Media, Manhasset, NY, plans to relaunch its tabloid newsweekly, Computer Reseller News, next week as a redesigned, magazine-format publication called CRN that seeks to appeal to a broader high-tech audience.

CRN has moved from tabloid size to a 10-inch-by-12-inch trim size, and from multistory-start covers to single-image covers. The magazine also added two new photo editors with backgrounds in the consumer and fashion press to dress up a look that had become, in the words of its publisher, “stodgy.”

But more than just cosmetics, the magazine’s design overhaul reflects the substantial changes that have already taken place inside the book and in the businesses of its readers. Over the past few years, CRN’s readers have increasingly incorporated the Internet and e-business into their business models. Simultaneously, CRN has dived — or was pushed — into covering e-business much more comprehensively.

“The Internet and e-business influence is really driving the industry,” said Amy Hoffman, CRN publisher. “Our traditional readers were reinventing themselves, and the newcomers to the publication were saying, ‘I’m not a reseller. I sell services and solutions.’ This was an ‘aha!’ to us.”

At the start of 2000, the publication found itself with the largest circulation in its 18-year history, but one that was changing. The majority of CRN’s 117,501 readers still fit into what could be called the supply chain of the manufacture, delivery and implementation of hi-tech products. But there were also important new categories of readers who were finding their way into the magazine’s pages. These readers included Web integrators, application service providers, ISPs, IT consultants and communications/telephony companies.

“With the new economy, we’ve seen the system integrator pie shrink a little bit and the Web integrator category grow,” Hoffman said. CRN itself made no specific attempts to add these readers to its circulation rolls. A good portion of that growth could be traced to a Web-based firm’s hiring of a veteran systems executive who was familiar with the publication and started up a new subscription at the Internet company, Hoffman supposed.

From an editorial standpoint, the magazine was already covering the subjects — hiring technical talent, profit models, telecommunications legislation — and companies — Gateway, Hewlett-Packard, Cisco, Novell, Lucent — of interest to both the value-added resellers community and the e-business market.

“Ninety-five percent of our readers conduct e-business [to varying degrees],” said Elliot Markowitz, CRN editor. The magazine’s expansion into Internet technology and business coverage occurred gradually, he said. The greater challenge, however, was implementing the image changes needed to assure its new readers that the publication spoke to them as well.

In January, CRN officials held 12 focus groups in New York and San Francisco to bring together core readers and newcomers. What they gleaned from these interviews was that the magazine’s content was relevant, but its style was outdated. It hired a magazine firm to retool the publication and spent six months preparing for next week’s relaunch. WNG Advertising is handling the business-to-business print and direct mail campaign.

Hoffman said the company would continue its efforts to promote the publication at trades shows and computer industry events, but it isn’t embarking on a drive to increase its circulation. Instead, it plans to add a few new reader segments, such as regional Bell operating companies and competitive local exchange carriers, and continuously refine the readers as business dictates.

Over the past decade, CRN’s circulation has doubled to just short of 118,000.

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