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York Colonno CMP SPINS TECHWEB ON THE 'NET HIGH-TECH PUBLISHER'S AD-SUPPORTED SERVICE LINKS ALL ITS MAGAZINES

By Published on .

A publisher of high-tech magazines and newspapers is going high-tech itself with one of the most ambitious Internet efforts to date.

Privately held CMP Publications today introduces TechWeb at Comdex/Fall, the computer industry trade show in Las Vegas. The ad-supported Internet site features content from each of of the Manhasset, N.Y.-based publisher's 16 titles and ancillary business units.

"We've been a very successful technology publisher for 23 years and we perceive that there are going to be very significant opportunities in other-than-print media, and we're planning for that to be a very major part of our future," said Mitchell York, publishing director at CMP's recently formed Interactive Media Group.

"We're very much committed to both types of media. We feel strongly that you go where the audience is."

Scores of magazines have created online editions via commercial online services, and a handful-Wired may be the most prominent-are also taking their chances on the Internet.

But CMP's TechWeb marks an aggressive corporate commitment to embrace electronic publishing. It is also a significant endorsement of the Internet, a fast-growing global network of computer networks.

Internet users who access the address http://techweb.cmp.com/techweb will be taken to TechWeb's home page on the World Wide Web. From there, they can gain entry to any of the magazines' individual areas.

CMP, which expects revenues this year of $300 million, publishes Windows, HomePC, InformationWeek, Interactive Age, Electronic Engineering Times, VARBusiness and Computer Reseller News, among others.

Each CMP magazine is building a home page and "very robust, very deep trees" of information, said Jerry Colonno, director of CMP's Interactive Media Group. Users will be able to call up news and current issues, download multimedia files, send e-mail to writers and editors and access up to six months of back issues using advanced searching tools.

And while each home page will have its own look and feel, they will all be connected by hypertext links, enabling users to jump between publications at the click of a mouse.

"That's something you simply can't do in print," said Mr. Colonno.

Other bells and whistles will include information on CMP conferences and the ability to subscribe to publications or change a subscription address.

TechWeb will be ad-supported, although initial sponsors are CMP print advertisers that were added to the online service at no extra charge. Some marketing programs are being created specifically for TechWeb; if an advertiser already has an Internet site, TechWeb will offer a link to that area.

Among the marketers involved in the service's launch: AT&T, MCI Communications Corp. and Tandem Computers.

An MCI spokesman said the company plans an aggressive Internet marketing strategy and is using TechWeb as its first entry point.

"We are big believers in the Internet and we will be big players on the Internet," the spokesman said. "We think CMP's doing some things right and this is a very smart next step in our ongoing relationship."

CMP hasn't yet decided how to price its Internet ad packages. But it is looking at another way of making money: The company is forming Looking Glass Consulting, a six-person business unit that will create Internet marketing applications for customers. Prices will be based on the complexity of the programs.

TechWeb initially will be free to Internet users. Individual titles may add premium charges later for services like database searches. CMP also is planning to launch subscriber-supported online newsletters aimed at narrow audience segments.

"We have to prove value to the reader and the ad community before we start putting locks on the thing," Mr. York said in reference both to the development of an advertising rate card and the creation of areas that are off-limits to users unless they subscribe or pay a fee.

TechWeb's launch follows by weeks that of another corporate publishing service on the Internet, Time Inc.'s Pathfinder. While Time Inc. and parent Time Warner dwarf CMP in size, Pathfinder currently features only a handful of the company's properties, including Time, Money and Vibe.

Another corporate publishing effort recently hit a major snag when Mecklermedia Corp. yanked its MecklerWeb service weeks after the launch. The service was originally designed to showcase marketers, but is being retooled to focus on Mecklermedia's Internet World, CD-ROM World and Virtual Reality World.

CMP rival Ziff-Davis Publishing Co. is planning its own commercial online service, Interchange, that will feature information from Ziff magazines and outside content providers. But the Ziff magazines and the planned online service have been separated by the sale of parent Ziff Communications. Interchange is the only part of the Ziff empire that hasn't yet been sold.

Ziff also produces ZiffNet, a service that appears on Prodigy, CompuServe and eWorld.

Various CMP titles also participate in commercial services, including CompuServe and America Online, and the company remains in talks with Prodigy and others. But the Internet project is clearly where CMP is putting its energies for now.

"I don't know of a single publisher who has committed as much as we have," said Mr. Colonno. "But to be honest with you, if we stopped right here, we'd be overtaken in six months. Competitors would be on top of us."

To avoid that, CMP is already planning enhancements to TechWeb that will be implemented in January, adding such things as bulletin boards and conferencing capabilities.

CMP eventually sees the online service and related projects generating significant revenues and profits, though it won't discuss actual financial goals.

"It's a core part of CMP's strategy," Mr. York said, adding that company President Michael Leeds is fully behind the new service.

The company's largest dedication of resources is in the form of employees.

In addition to the six staffers working on Looking Glass, more than 50 people worked at least part-time to develop the TechWeb area. And two-thirds of CMP's publications have hired or appointed dedicated new-media staffers, said Mr. Colonno.

In addition to CMP's Internet service, Messrs. York and Colonno plan to develop additional products for commercial online services and CD-ROMs. Noted Mr. York: "Anybody who pretends to know what will be the dominant mechanism is fooling themselves."

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