Scott E. Delman
the art and Business of Revitalizing
a 50-Year-old Science
and technology magazine
By the time you flip to this page you will have noticed there is
something dramatically different with Communications of the ACM.
The name on the cover remains the
same, but even at first glance it is clear
that the differences far outweigh the
similarities with what we can now fondly
and lovingly refer to as the old CACM.
Every decade or so, it is common for
magazines to reinvent themselves. This is
the case for many reasons, some related to
the publishers and the changing dynamics of the publishing industry and some
related to changing market and readership demographics. Very few magazines
are able to survive over time without reacting to these changes and Communications
of the ACM is no exception. In fact, magazines in the technology sector are even
less immune to such changes, because
of the rapid growth of the industry as a
whole and trend toward specialization.
As new areas of research and technology
emerge, new publications are launched
to satisfy the information needs of those
new communities. The number of new
technology magazines launched over the
past 10 years for this reason is startling,
each carving out a highly targeted and
Equally startling is the number of
technology magazines that have folded or
merged into other publications over the
past two years. As many magazines are
heavily dependent on advertising revenue
to fund operations, recent economic conditions and the rapid migration of advertising revenue from print to online have
had a sobering effect on the technology
magazine publishing industry.
Publications that have the ability to transform themselves editorially and appeal to
the changing needs of their readership have
the greatest ability to succeed. Publications
that can thrive even under these adverse market conditions are truly exceptional.
For 50 years, Communications has
stood the test of time and when necessary reinvented itself to keep pace with
ACM’s diverse and growing membership
and with the leadership of the computing
field. In recent years, the computing community has started to indicate to ACM’s
leadership that it was time for a change—
perhaps even a dramatic one—for the
The ACM membership has consistently grown more diverse over the past
decade and its information needs have
grown more demanding. No longer is it
possible to categorize ACM’s membership into a few distinct buckets, such as
Educator or Researcher or Practitioner.
Such distinctions make sense on paper
and are favorable for commercial reasons, but they are also extremely limiting
and do not reflect the way things often
work in the real world, where these lines
are often less defined. Practitioners are
in fact interested in what next-generation
research is coming down the pipeline,
researchers are of course interested in
what major technology challenges exist,
and both groups have a vested interest in
issues related to computing education.
But as publishers it is far too easy to draw
the distinctions instead of the similarities
and to produce publications that target
specific categories of readers instead of
large and diverse communities that share
common goals and interests.
When the field of computing was in its
infancy, Communications of the ACM was
created to serve as a single source of high-quality authoritative information to help
bring together a growing community of
scientists, technologists, and educators
by highlighting the best the field had to
offer. Some 50 years later, even though
the field has grown tremendously, it continues to experience growing pains, and
now more than ever requires a revitalized
publication to bring this community together. The new Communications of the
ACM is in many ways a homecoming for
the field of computing itself and an opportunity to help guide the field through
what many believe is a critical stage in the
field’s maturation into adulthood.
Over the coming months,
Communications’ dynamic new Editor-in-Chief, Moshe
Y. Vardi, an all-star lineup of contributors,
and I will introduce you to more of the innovations that form the basis for the new
Communications. But it is most important
to note that all of the changes to this new
vision reflect the best the international
computing community has to offer.
The true innovation, however, lies in
the expansion of the magazine’s editorial
scope, which will appeal to the community’s diverse mix of researchers, practitioners, and educators in all areas of computing and information technology.
It is with great pride and appreciation
for your continued support of ACM’s flagship publication that I welcome you to the
new Communications of the ACM.