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CMP TO CHALLENGE ZIFF'S `INTERACTIVE WEEK' COMPUTER MAGAZINE TITANS WILL DUKE IT OUT OVER `CONVERGENCE'

By Published on .

The battle to publish the magazine to cover the interactive industry is quickly becoming bloody.

In a salvo aimed at publishing rival Ziff-Davis, CMP Publications is preparing to launch in September a trade publication to cover the so-called "convergence" of industries-telecommunications, entertainment, computing and media. CMP's new magazine, tentatively titled Interactive Age, would compete directly with Interactive Week, announced in April by ex-CMP VP Jack Dolce.

Ziff-Davis Publishing Co. is the sole financial backer of Mr. Dolce's publication, set to launch Oct. 10 as a monthly with a controlled circulation of 60,000. Target readers are users of interactive products, technology enthusiasts and people in the telecommunications, cable TV and wireless industries.

Last week, CMP hired David Klein as editor for Interactive Age. Mr. Klein had been editor of Electronic Media, a sister Crain Communications Inc. publication to Advertising Age.

Consistent with CMP's policy on unannounced projects, the publishing company declined to comment on plans for Interactive Age.

"CMP has no comment on any product or speculation about a product," a spokeswoman said.

Mr. Klein said only that he was joining a CMP start-up in the interactive field.

The duel between Interactive Week and CMP's unannounced magazine could turn especially nasty since CMP executives are bitter that former colleague Mr. Dolce hired numerous CMPers for his magazine.

Ken Cron, CMP exec VP, said last month that Mr. Dolce and Beth Haggerty, former publisher of CMP's Communications Week and now publisher of Mr. Dolce's Interactive Week, researched the idea while on the CMP payroll.

"We think it's our property," said Mr. Cron, a claim Mr. Dolce denies.

"I never worked on this at CMP and never did research or a business plan," said Mr. Dolce. "Any statements that I did are not correct."

Mr. Dolce acknowledges a fight is looming.

"There is not an opportunity for more than one newspaper in this market at this time," he said.

"If in fact [CMP executives] are planning a different type of publication than we've planned, then maybe they could co-exist," he said. "But the rumors I've heard say it's the same type of publication."

Another leading media executive questioned whether there was room for either publication. The executive believes it will be hard to come up with strong subscriber lists for controlled circulation titles and said advertisers might shy away from the books if the audiences are not clearly defined.

CMP executives have questioned Ziff-Davis' financial commitment to Interactive Week, largely because Ziff has been put up for sale.

"We have a long-term contract that Ziff has committed itself to invest in this publication," said Mr. Dolce. "It's not a question of discretion. If Ziff were sold, someone would assume those responsibilities for a very, very significant commitment."

For now, the third big computer publisher, International Data Group, is sitting on the sidelines.

"What are the positions of the magazines?" asked Patrick Kenealy, president-CEO of IDG's PC World Communications division. "It's not clear if it will be for information providers or [telecommunications] carriers or interface providers or whatever. Until that sorts out, it's hard to say what the advertising universe is."

Mr. Dolce declined to talk about Interactive Week's ad rates or what industries it will look to for support.

CMP, meanwhile, has its plate full of launches. In May, it began publishing HomePC, a computer magazine for the home market. It announced plans for a November launch of NetGuide, a self-styled TV Guide for online services, and is rumored to have another consumer title in the works.

Chuck Martin, publisher of CMP's Information Week, is reported to be moving over to the publisher's slot at Interactive Age; veteran CMPer Tom Mannion will be associate publisher. CMP has recruited other sales staff from its existing titles.

For Mr. Dolce's publication, Ms. Haggerty is publisher and Al Perlman, another ex-CMPer, is editorial director. Susan Older was just hired away from Gannett Co. to be editor in chief.

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