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The concept: Surfers choose magazine cover

The technology: Interactive poll

The scoop: Hearst is using the Web to gauge reaction to potential covers for Mr. Food's Easy Cooking, a print title it's been testing since mid-April. Visitors to the Mr. Food section of Hearst's HomeArts site are offered four covers, complete with art and cover lines, and asked to choose one. Immediate calculation of standings lets the user check how his or her favorite is doing.

The most recent vote was for the issue hitting newsstands Sept. 15; a cover featuring a bundt cake topped with chocolate and cherries was the winner, beating a pie and two bowls of stew. While the 600-vote quota was reached and the choice made by Aug. 8, Web visitors will have another few weeks to register their opinion. The next official poll, for the February issue, goes up in mid-December.

Thomas O'Neil, editorial director for magazine development at Hearst, said Web polls offer "a more sophisticated perspective than man-on-the-street interviews." Mr. O'Neil said the polling will continue for the four remaining test issues and may continue once the magazine completes its test run.

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