A little more than a year ago, Linda Clark was painting houses and - for extra money - singing in a country band.
Come next month, she’ll celebrate her first anniversary as publisher of ComputorLink, the first magazine started in the Inland Northwest devoted to computers and technology.
Like most people starting a new publication, Clark is not making any money. Some evenings, in fact, the 46-year-old woman puts aside her keyboard for odd paint jobs to keep the magazine afloat.
“We’re close to not needing to do that. We’re at break-even now,” she said.
Available at no cost at cash registers and counters in Spokane and North Idaho, the magazine brings in just enough money through advertising to keep Clark convinced her idea is on track.
Clark knows that few small, Spokaneborn magazines survive beyond their first year.
Those that have avoided the newpublication graveyard, such as the Journal of Business, found a broad audience to ensure a steady supply of money.
Regional or local computer magazines are a tough sell, caught between sophisticated national publications aimed at technology-types, and daily newspapers that cover a portion of the industry.
“What surprises me is that ComputorLink has stayed away from becoming a consumers’ rag, a publication for parents of kids using PCs,” said Eastern Washington University computer science professor Steve Simmons.
He praised the magazine’s “techie streak” and Clark’s effort to let knowledgable people write about serious topics.
“People in our business get insulated from each other,” Simmons said. “I find that it helps me find out what others in the area are doing.”
Clark’s primary goal is to increase the magazine’s circulation above its current 8,000 copies. Also planned is an increase in the paid staff - herself and an advertising director - to four.
Her one big mistake so far, she said, was trying early on to publish two issues a month. “I thought people would regard it more seriously if it came out more often,” she said.
Each monthly issue has about a half-dozen articles ranging from comments on cruising the Internet to explanations of new gizmos and computer items.
Not a “techie” herself, Clark insists each writer give readers a no-jargon understanding of the topic. “The best comment I’ve got so far is when someone told me they like ComputorLink because it’s not threatening.”
And yes, she gets frequent reminders from readers that “computor” is not a real word. Her version was chosen to emphasize “the individual user and the link to technology,” she said.
Writers for ComputorLink don’t get paid a cent. Some, like consultant David Paulsen, get free advertising in the magazine as a form of payment.
Other writers, like Spokane accountant Geoff Forshag, write for ComputorLink so they can see their names in print and establish business contacts.
“The article I wrote was a chance to make contacts we might not have made otherwise,” said Forshag, a member of LeMaster and Daniels’ consulting service division.
Clark formed the idea after studying similar regional magazines, such as Computer Edge of San Diego.
Having just lost a job, Clark decided to launch a business that would help people take advantage of the growth in technology.
“What I do well is see how to get something done, and find people to help do it,” she said.
“I’m also strong on the practical, problem-solving side.”
Translated that means: Clark has to hunker down once a month and spend three straight days and nights editing stories, laying out pages and monitoring the volunteers delivering it.
Her other immediate goal is to put the publication on-line and to create an e-mail address.
“I’ve taken lots of criticism for not taking those steps,” said Clark. “All I can say is for a magazine about computers, we should already be leading that parade.”
MEMO: Tom Sowa covers technology for The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached via e-mail at: email@example.com.