Western to create Web zines

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Media buying giant Western International Media Corp. is becoming a Web content provider.

Western opened a division called Thumbs Up, which will develop consumer-focused online magazines. The company expects to launch its first zine within three to four months, said Ira Laufer, president-CEO of the unit.

By entering the Web content field, Western is further blurring the fuzzy line between advertising and editorial online. But Mr. Laufer said his group will operate separately from Western's media buying work.

MAY OUTSOURCE AD SALES

Los Angeles-based Western may consider hiring a rep firm to sell ads for the online properties, said Chairman-CEO Dennis Holt.

Western follows a similar strategy with its TV production division, which outsources ad sales to a separate company to avoid conflict.

For Messrs. Laufer and Holt, Thumbs Up is something of a reunion. Mr. Laufer hired Mr. Holt for his first job, in the ad sales department of an Orange County, Calif., radio station. Mr. Laufer later ran Laufer Publishing Co., publisher of Teen Beat and other magazines and most recently was a principal in Freed/Laufer Pro-ductions.

"At this stage in the game, the Web needs all the participants it can get," Mr. Laufer said. "Five years from now, media [buying] companies would have to be very careful about getting into something like this" for fear of conflicts.

Copyright August 1996 Crain Communications Inc.

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