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The Byte software review process.

Especially for technically sophisticated products, Byte Magazine (total circulation: 455,000) has always been one of the computer world's most influential publications. Not surprisingly, the magazine's editors are flooded with review pitches. "The stack of mail in my office every day is really 12" high," says Dennis Allen, the senior technical editor in charge of Byte's software reviews.

How does Allen select the relatively few products that Byte actually reviews? "It's very difficult to describe exactly what we want," he says, "but generally we look for a product that advances the technology, or that provides a new price-performance level, or that is likely to dominate its category."

Allen "reads every release" in search of such products, he says. Byte's editors usually assign individual reviews to outside free-lancers, who are typically experts in specific applications areas, not professional writers. (Byte also has an in-house testing facility, but the lab is used primarily for multiple-product comparisons.)

Allen offered several guidelines for developers who think their products fit Byte's profile:

* Don't wait until the product ships. Byte has a three to four

month production cycle for reviews, Allen points out, so a product he receives now probably wouldn't appear until the magazine's February issue. To insure timeliness, Byte likes to begin reviewing major products around the time they go into beta testing--though "we never publish reviews based only on beta versions," he adds. "We have to see a finished product."

* Tell your story clearly. "A lot of developers don't know how to

describe their products," Allen says. Byte prefers to get "a good summary up front, with all the technical information we need to get a thorough understanding of the product." (One particularly useful item, he says, is information about how the product compares to key competitors.) Allen also accepts calls from developers who have major products to announce--"Believe it or not, we still answer the telephone here"--but he's easily annoyed when the only purpose of a call is to find out "whether I received somebody's press release."* Don't hassle the reviewers. Byte keeps the identity of its

reviewers secret, so they "won't be hammered by some vice president of marketing," Allen says. "However, once we get down to the nitty-gritty, we generally do want to talk with the principal developers." Byte never gives manufacturers a chance to preview the text of a review, but Allen says reviewers are asked to talk over any criticisms with the developer, to make sure they didn't misunderstand how the product works. "There's a lot of money at risk here," says Allen. "we understand that."
COPYRIGHT 1989 Soft-letter
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1989, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Byte magazine
Publication:Soft-Letter
Date:Aug 15, 1989
Words:430
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