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If new magazines keep proliferating the way they did last year, the death knell Internet aficionados are itching to ring for ink and paper will never sound.

A record 1,076 new titles were introduced in 1998, according to tallies by Samir Husni, the University of Mississippi professor who has tracked magazine launches for the past 21 years. That total easily surpassed 1997's 853.


Much of the growth was driven by spinoffs and special editions of magazines targeted to narrow niches.

"Specialty was the name of the game for 1998," Mr. Husni said. "Publishers are now aiming at a subsegment of their audience."

But even Mr. Husni questions whether the industry will be able to keep up the pace of new activity this year: "How thin can you slice an audience before a title really becomes a newsletter?"

The 1998 edition of the Samir Husni Guide to New Consumer Magazines, published by Oxbridge Communications, will be released this week. Highlights from 1998 will appear on the Mr. Magazine Web site (www.mediafinder.com), along with a list of the most notable new launches of 1999 to date.

While in 1997 the industry produced more sex titles than any other category, 1998's top category was fueled by fantasies of another kind. With stars such as Leonardo DiCaprio and the Spice Girls fueling the "fanzine" market, and publishers turning out tributes to Princess Diana and Frank Sinatra, 125 new titles about media personalities were published in 1998.


More mainstream publishers are recognizing value in publishing one-time-only special issues to mark events -- such as the last episode of "Seinfeld." Mr. Husni expects that trend to continue.

The second-biggest category for launches, sports, was fueled by a similar philosophy; publishers are quick to print one-time-only special issues around sport stars or events.

Sex was the third-largest category with 83 new titles, followed by crafts, games, hobbies and models with 71 titles -- including several for collectors of Ty's Beanie Babies. The computer category accounted for 58 new titles.

Despite the high number of special issues, more than half the new titles were produced more than once, Mr. Husni said, the best ratio yet for any year.

"More than 500 of the titles were at least published quarterly or more frequently than that, which is quite an improvement," he said. "It was a very

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