Net titles hit turbulence in '97; survivors refocus

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What was predicted to be 1997's hot publishing category, magazines for the Internet user, has lost many of its entries and the ones that remain are retooling. The new focus is away from consumers and to the business-to-business market.

"The consumer market is finished," declared Alan Meckler, chairman-CEO of Mecklermedia, which last week said it was shutting down its monthly Internet World and giving that name to its weekly controlled title Web Week.

"The Internet is very pervasive ... nearly every consumer title now has a cyber column. Why do you need a consumer title for the Internet if all you are interested in is sports and you're already getting online information from your sports title?" he asked rhetorically.


The latest title to be recast is International Data Group's monthly The Web. While an executive with knowledge of the situation said IDG likes many of the title's assets--such as its highly trafficked Web site, content listings, and the Webby Awards honoring the best of the Internet--the company is exploring all possibilities but observers believe the title will close. However, the brand name will continue online and possibly in books or annual guides.

A decision on The Web will be made in the next 30 days.

IDG continues to invest in books on the Internet and on the launch of an Internet industry weekly title with ex-Wired staffer John Batelle for second quarter '98.

After suspending publication of The Net earlier this year, Imagine will relaunch it in May under James Daly, the ex-Wired editor. In its first incarnation, The Net was much like Yahoo! Internet Life, a Ziff-Davis property that takes a TV Guide approach to the Internet.

"We are relaunching as a very different magazine," said Mr. Daly, who said it will focus heavily on business stories.

The title is still looking for a publisher, but 130,000 copies of the first issue will be mailed to previous subscribers with an undetermined number of copies on the newsstand for two months.

"I think most of these publications have a natural ceiling of about 300,000 to 350,000," he said.


CMP Media, publisher of Home PC, Windows and controlled-circulation trade titles, shut down its consumer-oriented NetGuide after difficulties finding an ad and subscriber base. Mecklermedia's other title, Internet Shopper, will cease publication to become strictly an online site.

Ziff-Davis folded Internet Underground in March, a title that took a downtown view of the World Wide Web. But the company still has faith in the consumer market because of its success with Yahoo! Internet Life.

"Yahoo! Internet Life is clearly established within the technology market, and we are only one or two major accounts away from being equally established in the consumer arena," said Publisher Jim Spanfeller.

Advertisers new to the magazine in the February issue are General Motors Corp.'s Chevrolet division, American Isuzu Motors and Calvin Klein.

For January through November, according to Publishers Information Bureau, the title was up 3.3% in ad pages to 58.21. Yahoo! Internet Life also been signing up subscribers online, and will have a rate base of 400,000 in February.

Wired, a general-interest title about technology, also is undergoing a transformation.

After two unsuccessful attempts to take the company public, private investors were found and a new editor and publisher were signed; founder and CEO Louis Rossetto has taken a lesser role in day-to-day operations.

A redesign that begins with the January issue more clearly organizes Wired into sections focuses on new media, business, politics and technology.

Wired carries a significant amount of consumer advertising pages. According to PIB, its '97 ad pages were up 10.3%, to 185.38, through November.

Copyright December 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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