European publishers look online

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AMSTERDAM--Judging by the response of European publishers to news of new international editions of Wired, the digital mind-set is firmly set on the Continent.

Participants in the International Federation of the Periodical Press conference last week swarmed to Louis Rossetto after the co-founder and CEO of Wired Ventures said he's ready to begin expansion of U.S. magazine Wired to Europe, Asia and South America.

Wired launched a U.K. edition earlier this year. A German edition is likely in the next year, with other European markets to follow, he said.

Mr. Rossetto's dilemma is how to expand internationally.

"Do we do one international brand like The Economist or one local edition at a time like Vogue or PC World?" he asked. "My sense is there's one global revolution but a lot of different ways of looking at it that each culture needs to address in its own way. It's likely editions will spring directly out of that culture."

Aside from Wired, European publishers are increasingly embracing online services.

German publisher Burda, an investor in both HotWired' (an Internet version of Wired) and Europe Online, announced plans to launch a sophisticated online service for physicians in February.

Burda's Health Online Service, a joint venture with Activ-Consult, a Munich-based multimedia company, will let doctors access international medical databases, research results and information on topics such as products, conferences, drugs and diseases.

Helmut Fluhrer, CEO of Health Online Service, aims to sign up at least 25,000 of Germany's more than 240,000 physicians in the first stage, then target another 60,000 German-speaking doctors in neighboring countries before moving on to the rest of Europe.

The ad-supported service will be free to doctors, except for special services such as translation into English, French and German. A direct mail campaign aimed at physicians in Germany starts in October.

Mr. Fluhrer said marketers can place highly targeted billboard ads on the computer screen, sponsor discussions about different specialties and place classified ads. Advertisers can tailor their billboards according to the types of doctor they will reach.

"Every [advertiser] wants to have the doctors," he said. "They are big spenders and opinion leaders."

French publisher Hachette, which publishes TV listings magazines in France and Spain, started working on a digital TV guide the company hopes to launch in mid-1996 in response to an anticipated problem: how to cram information about hundreds of TV channels into a paper program guide.

Europe's top 12 TV manufacturers have agreed next year to install a microchip into new sets that will enable digital listings to be called up on the TV screen.

Herve Digne, the Hachette Filipacchi Presse exec VP who's in charge of Hachette's digital TV project, is wrestling with ways to make it profitable but keep it from cannibalizing Hachette's Tel 7 Jours, France's largest TV listings magazine.

"That's the big question mark," he said. "Everyone thinks advertising will pay for everything. I have my doubts, but I think there's some kind of potential."

Copyright October 1995 Crain Communications Inc.

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