Well, this is it: the final issue of the original Computerworld newspaper. Almost exactly 40 years ago, Patrick J. McGovern decided that the data processing world needed a publication that wouldnt be in the pockets of the vendors who advertised, like too many industry magazines at the time. McGoverns newspaper was launched quickly on a shoestring budget, printed on cheap newsprint and laughed at by advertisers who knew it could never succeed.

It succeeded. The advertisers stopped laughing. The budget got fatter. The paper got slicker. And now, a mere 2,056 weekly issues later, Computerworld is changing to a magazine.

Does that really make a difference? Yes, it does.

A few weeks ago, I sat with a hundred close friends of Computerworld, listening to McGovern talk about the earliest days of the newspaper. Though his stories were from four decades ago, they all had a familiar ring. That was partly because a newspaper is a newspaper; chasing stories, beating deadlines and tearing up the front page for breaking news hasnt changed much in 40 years.

But something else was very familiar. From the very beginning, Computerworld has been first and foremost an advocate for people working in corporate IT shops. Not for the IT industry for IT people.

A tabloid newspaper was perfect for that mission. Like real IT work, it wasnt slick and pretty, but rough, messy and a little rushed. Computerworld didnt present a beautiful, glossy image of IT products, vendors and projects; it found flaws, pointed up problems and talked about both what worked and what didnt.

And unlike the monthly magazines, Computerworld got IT news to its readers in days, not weeks. Thats when readers needed it, and thats when they got it.

Forty years on, readers still need their IT news fast. But today, its the newspaper thats the slowpoke.

Today, almost nothing in Computerworld hasnt already appeared on Computerworld.com often in several versions as news develops by the time the newspaper hits readers desks.

And the Web site isnt just faster. It also has the endless room of the Internet to provide details, context, background and even links to IT-related information that doesnt come from Computerworld, but that Computerworld readers need.

Best of all, Computerworld.com isnt just focused on what IT people need. With the Web sites ability to let readers comment, its an ongoing conversation one thats actually driven by IT people in real time. Thats more than the newspaper could ever be.

Computerworld the newspaper really has been replaced by Computerworld.com. And now this paper-and-ink edition is being replaced by a magazine. (Its ironic that Computerworld was originally cheaper to produce as a newspaper than as a magazine, and now its being converted to a magazine because thats cheaper today. But theres progress for you.)

The new Computerworld cant get readers the news as quickly as Computerworld.com or in as much quantity. Instead, Computerworld will be a tighter, faster read than the Web site, with a sharper focus and more analysis. The magazine will still be conveniently portable and will still make it easy for readers to mark up, tear out and pass around articles.

And, yes, Computerworld will still have Shark Tank, in its new home just one page away from this column.

But it wont be a newspaper.

So this is it: the last page of our last newspaper issue. And as usual, Sharky and I get the last word.

Newspaper reporters traditionally mark the end of their stories with -30-. Many Computerworld reporters will still do that, but this is really the last time we can do it legitimately. After this week, we wont be working for a newspaper any longer.

But just as we have for 40 years well still be working for you.

See you on July 9.

Frank Hayes, Computerworlds senior news columnist, has covered IT for more than 20 years. Contact him at frank_hayes@computerworld.com.


Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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