If you think the region's computer companies are confused by the turbulent federal market for their services, consider the trade publications they once flooded with advertising dollars. Federal Computer Week and Government Computer News, the two leading local trade papers, are scrambling to maintain their hold on those precious advertising dollars.

Federal Computer Week's grip apparently is slipping faster. It recently laid off nine employees, including two writers, because of a drop in advertising, and is shifting its circulation base toward civilian federal agencies in response to what publisher Steven Woit and editor Edith Holmes see as a shift of federal spending toward that area. In addition, Federal Computer Week's weekly publication schedule is history, although its name won't change. There will be 42 issues this year instead of the standard 50. FCW hasn't set the number of issues for next year, but you can bet it will be much closer to 40 than 50.

Government Computer News also has had layoffs, but editor Jake Kirchner attributes them to a recent merger between its publisher, New York-based Ziff-Davis, the country's leading personal computer magazine publisher, and Newton, Mass.-based Cahners Publishing Co., the nation's largest trade publishing company. As for advertising weakness, Silver Spring-based Government Computer News, a biweekly, said its share of the advertising market through the end of May had risen to 60.1 percent this year from 55.8 percent last year. FCW dropped from 44.2 percent a year ago to 39.9 percent this year.