HEARST OPENS A CYBERSPACE NEWSSTAND

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Hearst Corp. last week unveiled the Multimedia Newsstand, an online magazine subscription service that marks the first of a half-dozen online ventures the company will start this year.

"We expect to have online in the first half of this year six electronic magazines," said Alfred Sikes, president of Hearst New Media & Technology. In addition to setting up additional Web sites on the Internet, he said Hearst is in negotiations with an existing commercial online service.

Hearst is also known to be developing an Internet edition of its Popular Mechanics.

Perhaps the most ambitious project is HomeNet, a series of online and CD-ROM home decorating and gardening services that has been in development for about a year. Mr. Sikes declined to discuss the timetable or provide additional details, but said HomeNet will be "much broader and deeper than magazines."

The Multimedia Newsstand (http://mmnewsstand.com) offers limited graphics and the ability to browse a handful of articles from a couple of Hearst magazines. The core of the service is subscription offers from more than 200 magazines published by several dozen companies.

Basic listings are free for the magazines, all clients of the Hearst-owned Publishers Periodical Service Bureau, a subscription agent.

Non-Hearst titles sold by the service range from Baseball Digest to and Woman's Day. Transactions can be made online, and Publishers Periodical collects a standard commission fee on all subscriptions sold.

The service does not include advertising, but magazines sold through the site may later be able to pay to enhance their offerings.

Multimedia Newsstand will compete on the Internet with the Electronic Newsstand, a site launched more than a year ago by New Republic President Jeffrey Dearth.

Electronic Newsstand (http://www.enews.com) offers subscription information from more than 200 magazines-many of them smaller specialty titles. It also includes a sampling of stories from the current issue of each magazine.

"We're flattered that a big company like Hearst sought to imitate us," Mr. Dearth said.

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