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Those who believe the online world will make dinosaurs of magazines should check out their local newsstands.

Magazines about the Internet and other new-media technologies are suddenly one of publishing's hottest categories. The latest to jump into the fray are Virtual City and ZD Internet Life, consumer-oriented quarterlies making their debut this fall. They'll battle a list of competitors led by Wired and including such titles as Internet World, NetGuide and Online Access.

Though the titles are small by the standards of most consumer magazine publishers, the long-term payoff appears to be huge.

That potential is attracting heavyweight players. Virtual City is backed by a joint venture between the Washington Post Co.'s Newsweek and San Francisco-based Virtual Communications. No rate base or ad rates have been established, but 300,000 copies are expected to be distributed to newsstands and computer stores in September.

Ziff-Davis Publishing Co. is behind ZD Internet Life, making its debut sometime this fall with a rate base of 100,000.

"Tomorrow, there will be more people using interactive media than there will be watching network TV shows like `Seinfeld,' `ER' and `Home Improvement," Ziff-Davis President Eric Hippeau predicted in a speech announcing the magazine at last week's Media/Options '95 conference in New York.

Forrester Research, a Cambridge, Mass.-based high-tech consultancy, estimates 10 million people will be connected to online services by the end of 1995, including 7.2 million on proprietary services.

The trick for each of the new magazines is to become as effective in carving a niche as Wired, winner of a National Magazine Award for general excellence in 1994. That magazine has attracted both high-end consumer advertisers as well as more traditional computer hardware and software advertisers.

Wired's paid circulation jumped 67.8% in the second half of last year compared with the same period in 1993, to 142,993.

"We want to be the city magazine of cyberspace," said Jonathan Sacks, 43, a veteran of both International Data Group and more recently Ziff-Davis Publishing, who is publisher and editorial director of Virtual City. Lewis D'Vorkin, 42, a former business editor at Newsweek who left his post as editorial director of Ziff-Davis in January, will be editor in chief.

"We think we're going to get ads from all of the consumer categories, plus hardware and software companies," said Mr. Sacks. "Ziff is slicing and dicing the market for computer manufacturers."

Both titles, of course, will have new-media tie-ins.

The Ziff launch is perhaps the more innovative. A CD-ROM will be packaged with each issue and will include one-button access to an Internet Life Web site and to sites reviewed by the magazine.

"We've designed the magazine, the CD-ROM and the Web site to be seamless," said Editorial Director Gary Bolles. "Advertisers will be able to have a presence on all three platforms."

A full-page ad in Internet Life will cost $6,100. Rates for the CD-ROM and Web site haven't been set.

Editorial content from Virtual City will be available online and will also run in the "Focus" section of the Business Plus demographic edition of Newsweek, which has a circulation of 1 million.

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