Times Mirror Interzines begins to gel as network

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Times mirror Interzines is emerging as a cohesive network of sports sites five months after Times Mirror Magazines bought the InterZine group of Web sites.

Interzines executives are working on merging redundant sites, cutting more distribution deals and signing up new advertisers.

In one key new distribution deal, flagship zine Sporting News Online provides MSNBC with sports coverage. Sporting News is catching up with competitors, including ESPN SportsZone, CBS SportsLine, Fox Sports and CNN/SI, that already have a TV link.

"We [thought] we were missing what some of our key competitors already have. That said, it's not so much about TV, but also the Web presence of MSNBC," said Michael Dubester, president of Times Mirror Interzines.


Under the agreement, Sporting News will provide content to MSNBC, which will serve the co-branded sports news to its users. Content will also be linked back to the Sporting News site. The deal includes cross-promotion on both sites and MSNBC-TV mentions for Sporting News Online.

"I think a significant number of people will sample us and, hopefully, they'll bookmark us and keep coming back," Mr. Dubester said.

Advertisers are just learning about the deal, he said, and he anticipates a positive response to the potential of more viewers.

One advertiser that is expanding its relationship is Ford Motor Co., which in the past sponsored Sporting News Online's college football and Best Sport Cities feature. In October, the automaker will sponsor a special one-time section in the magazine and on the Web.

Dr Pepper also has signed on as the college football anchor sponsor beginning this week; EA Sports will sponsor a Madden Football section beginning soon; IBM Corp. is sponsoring U.S. Open coverage that begins this week; and Visa USA again will be the title sponsor for pro football.

Besides Sporting News Online, Times Mirror Interzines executives have been merging redundant sites. When InterZine was acquired, the company had 22 Web sites; that number has already been whittled down to 18 and will be further reduced, said Mr. Dubester.


So far, the two Snowboarding sites (www.solsnowboarding.com and www.twsnow) have been consolidated into one Snowboarding Online site. A combined Skiing site, called SkiNet (www.skinet.com and www.iski.com), will launch on Labor Day with IBM as an advertiser. Still in the works is a consolidated golf site. In all cases, either the Times Mirror URL or the old InterZine URL will get users to the new site.


Skateboarding.com has also been relaunched with a new charter sponsor, J.C. Penney Co.'s Arizona Jeans.

Mr. Dubester said the other sites in the new Interzines fold will be evaluated and built out in stages.

"We're taking inventory of the assets we bought and evaluating [which are] the best of breed, then developing those and running advertising around them," he said. "We're in this to make money."

While none of the Times Mirror Interzines is profitable yet, Mr. Dubester said he anticipates turning a profit in the next year or two.

Copyright August 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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