'Hotdots' scraps plans for bimonthly publication

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The softening economy may have claimed another magazine. Hotdots, the Web-shopping title aimed at women launched late last year by AOL Time Warner unit Southern Progress Corp., has scotched plans for bimonthly publication in 2001. The magazine now plans to release a May-June issue--which a spokeswoman referred to as "another test issue"--and then evaluate its options, but some internal speculation says its May-June issue will be its last.

Hotdots, which Southern Progress spent around $5 million to launch, has thus far only published a November-December 2000 holiday issue, "the plan was to continue with more in 2001," said a spokeswoman. "But with the downturn, we will see where the magazine goes, an how much we want to invest in it." The spokeswoman said the company did not yet have results on how well the debut issue performed.

Publisher Jeff Ward would only say, "I tell you, it's not shutting down," before referring a reporter to a spokeswoman.

An AOL Time Warner executive claimed no direct knowledge of Hotdots' change in plans, but said the outcome was "not surprising," and hinted that internal earnings pressures within the newly merged media giant may be mounting.

"Everyone's got to make their quarterly numbers work," said the executive. "Unless something has huge potential, they can't afford to be investing."

The Web-shopping niche for magazines has been a troubled one. Last year Ziff Davis Media published two issues of eshopper, but decided in July to make it a special issue of Yahoo! Internet Life. For the holiday season of 1999, Meredith Corp. polybagged 3 million copies of Shop Online 123 to select subscribers at 10 of its titles. In late 2000, Meredith cut distribution back and has no plans to publish another issue.

Hotdots launched with a rate base of 400,000, and a one-time full-page color ad cost $22,000. Following every-other-monthly publication throughout 2001, the company planned to take the title monthly in 2002.

Copyright February 2001, Crain Communications Inc.

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