ARCHIVED  February 1, 1998

Niche opens windows for Duke

The success of Duke Communications can be summed up in what Duke staff members call "uncompromising principles."David Duke, a former engineer for IBM Corp., founded Duke Communications in 1982 in Loveland. Duke went off on his own to publish a newsletter called "News 34-38" for IBM midrange computer users.
In the last 15 years, the company has grown from its humble roots in Duke˜s garage to 170 full-time employees, four monthly magazines, a Web site, seminars and a book-publishing division.
Duke˜s publications are highly technical magazines and books designed for high-tech businesses, engineers, software and hardware designers, and business professionals in the field.
Although Duke began with a small newsletter, the company˜s growth in the publishing industry speaks for its success.
"Duke left IBM to start News 34-38 because he was interested in the new technology, and there was nothing out there in the field," said Ann McLendon, promotions director at Duke.
The newsletter became the magazine News/400 and has received more than 50 awards for editorial and design excellence, McLendon said. The 34-38 refers to the popular IBM systems involving advanced programming, the precursor to IBM˜s highly successful AS/400.
News/400 boasts a 75 percent renewal rate, despite its premium subscription price of $129 pre year.
The circulation of News/400 has grown to 25,000 paid subscribers for the monthly publication and is published in Spanish, French, Italian and German. The publication services the AS/400 business computer market.
There are about 450,00 AS/400 computers installed worldwide. For the first few years after Duke Communications began, the entire company was News/400.
Then in 1991, Duke Press, the book division, was established to publish more-extensive information for the AS/400 market. The book division published about 18 titles in 1997 and expects to publish about 27 titles in 1998.
There is a rapid review study guide for engineers who want to pass a Microsoft certification test and also some college textbooks. The company is able to draw on authors who write for the magazines.
Duke Communications is always looking for new ideas, so, when Mark Smith, one of their managers came up with a new idea for a Microsoft Windows magazine, the company jumped at the chance to be the first on the market.
Smith was looking for a magazine on Windows NT to gain more information but could not find one.
"Windows NT Magazine" was launched in September 1995. It has proved to be one of the most successful business magazines launched in recent years.
"By the end of December 1995, we had 10,000 to 15,000 paid subscribers and by the end of December 1997, we had over 100,000 paid subscribers," said Tim Ewing, circulation sales & marketing manager for Windows NT Magazine. "Windows NT is our fastest-growing magazine."
The monthly publication sells for $39.95 per year and is focused on business applications. A section of the magazine reports on new software and hardware that has been tested at the Duke laboratory in Loveland.
Acting as a sort of Consumer˜s Report for the computer industry, Duke performs rigorous testing on new software and hardware products. The magazine reports on the bugs, pitfalls or the value of these products, and these articles have caused some advertisers to cancel ads.
"It becomes a balancing act, but we have to tell it like it is, whether the test results are good or bad," Ewing said. "We have lost some advertisers after we reported on products they advertised in the magazine. We do care if we have to write something bad about a product, but we will not compromise our integrity. That is the overriding philosophy of the company — we tell it like it is.
Ewing said the magazine has seen a 400 percent growth in advertising since it began publication. Of the 250 pages in the magazine, 45 percent is advertising.
"Our reader˜s interest is the only thing that is important to us," Ewing said. "We want to give the reader information so they can make informed decisions. We are a good independent resource."
The emphasis is on the reader, Ewing said.
"Ad pages are important, but when push comes to shove, we ultimately are here for the reader," he said. "We have a lot of challenges because our ad people are very focused on selling ads. What has helped us is that we make our decisions as a team; we don˜t make decisions in a vacuum."
In November 1995, "Controller Magazine" entered the market, developed by Greg Northrup, Duke˜s chief financial officer. The magazine has found a niche in helping controllers and financial managers cope with the changing technology in the high-tech field and their changing roles.
Circulation for the monthly publication is now at 20,000 paid subscribers, at $59 per year.
The newest magazine in the Duke family is "Selling NT" which rolled off the presses in November 1997. The monthly publication sells for $29.97.
"We went from one magazine to three magazines in just 2 1/1 years, and we are continuing to grow," Ewing said.
After going full-circle from newsletter, to magazines to books, Duke is again going to launch a newsletter.
"The newsletter will have high-quality editorial that will be practical, high-quality, how-to information based on Windows NT," Ewing said. "It will be 16 pages and will be very tightly focused, whereas the magazine has a whole range of research, including case studies and high-level strategic information. We will have 12 issues, and it will sell for $79 to $99 per year."
It will come out in March 1998.
Duke has come out with compact discs for people who want to research a subject. The CDs are arranged by subject and have all the articles on a specific topic available to researchers.
The Web site will contain a pay-per-view section in 1998, with articles arranged by subject for research, available free to subscribers and for a fee for nonsubscribers who want to do research online.
Seminars are offered by authors through Duke Communications. A full-time acquisitions department looks for writers for highly technical articles.
McLendon said that beginning writers are paid about 17 cents a word, and experienced writers have negotiable contracts.
Although Duke has a variety of competitors in the field, it has managed to capture a major share of the market.
"I think that these publications have been received rather well in the industry," said John Venator, a staff member with the Computing Technology Industry Association in Lombard, Ill. "I˜m sure the advertisers have done some research and have found that it reaches its market. Advertisers would not put money into something that is not working for them."
Don Lutter, sales consultant with Micro Computer World in Longmont, said that he has renewed his subscription to Windows NT.
"I like the articles, although I don˜t read it cover to cover each month." he said. "Some of the material is very technical. I find the magazine useful, and I read it because I like to keep up on what is new in the industry, so I am informed when I talk to clients."

The success of Duke Communications can be summed up in what Duke staff members call "uncompromising principles."David Duke, a former engineer for IBM Corp., founded Duke Communications in 1982 in Loveland. Duke went off on his own to publish a newsletter called "News 34-38" for IBM midrange computer users.
In the last 15 years, the company has grown from its humble roots in Duke˜s garage to 170 full-time employees, four monthly magazines, a Web site, seminars and a book-publishing division.
Duke˜s publications are highly technical magazines and books designed for high-tech businesses, engineers, software and hardware designers, and business professionals…

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