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INTERACTIVE;CREATOR OF WEB ZINE 'WORD' IS SHIFTING GEARS; EXECS DEPART AS ICON PULLS BACK PLANS FOR SITES TARGETING WOMEN, BIZ

By Published on .

Icon new media Productions, the venture behind the popular Web zine Word, is downshifting its aggressive content development plans.

Two planned online zines, targeting women and small business, have been pushed back indefinitely. Company co-founder Daniel Pelson, who shared responsibility for the new content offerings, left in late June to form his own online media venture.

New York-based ICon, which also provides network and hosting capabilities through ICon CMT, will now focus on beefing up Word (http://www.word.com) and Charged (http://www.charged.com), a sports zine that launched in May.

MOVING TOO QUICKLY?

ICon also has a deal with CBS to co-develop a site for the network's coverage of the Democratic National Convention and plans to launch a second sports site in September. Called sfan, the site is a 50-50 venture with Sportsfan Radio Network.

"I had concerns about whether or not we might be doing things too quickly," said Tom Livaccari, VP-group publisher for the media unit.

Mr. Pelson, the 30-year-old former VP-general manager of ICon and co-founder of Word, says his new company hopes to launch Web brands that are viable in other media. On his agenda are two projects remarkably similar to the zines ICon has postponed.

"We want to do something for the small-business marketplace," Mr. Pelson said. He also wants to work on a site for a female audience.

STANDALONE ZINES DIFFICULT

Also departing: Chris McCarthy, 29, who joined in May as executive producer working on the business-oriented zine. He is now a partner at Dot Com Communications, New York.

"I think it's increasingly going to become more and more difficult for standalone zine companies to survive," said Scott Baxter, ICon president. "The returns are not...immediate. But Dan understands that, and is [well-positioned] for what he wants to do."

Word and Charged are performing well, but ICon acknowledges the need for more sponsorship revenue.

ICon will break two Web ad campaigns next month from Anderson & Lembke, New York, designed to bolster traffic.

`WORD' TOPS REVENUE PROJECTIONS

Word celebrated its first anniversary this month, and executives at ICon New Media say the publication has exceeded ad revenue expectations.

One insider told Advertising Age that in its first year Word generated more than $500,000 in ad revenues on operating expenses of $750,000, excluding equipment spending.

Both Shawn Gold, general manager-sponsorship programming, and Mr. Baxter declined to comment on the revenue figures. Mr. Baxter said, however, that "it would take a lot more than $750,000 to launch a good online magazine." Mr. Gold said Word has been profitable on a month-to-month basis since January.

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