'YAHOO! INTERNET LIFE' FINDS REAL SUCCESS IN VIRTUAL WORLD - BEST MAGAZINE: FROM MANY, JUST ONE CLEAR SURVIVOR
Yahoo! internet life may be the only place where you can find step-by-step guidelines to buying a car online, read about the use of e-mail as evidence in a court of law, and get the lowdown on the monks at the Church of the Quivering Otter all between the covers of one magazine.
James J. Spanfeller, exec VP-publishing director, Ziff-Davis' Emerging Markets Group, calls it a "lifestyle consumer book not so much about how to get on the Web but what to do once you're there."
ORIGINALLY 'INTERNET LIFE'
The title was launched in 1995 as ZD Internet Life. But the name was changed after just one test issue as the result of a joint venture between Ziff-Davis and Yahoo! Corp. In 1996, Mr. Spanfeller came aboard as publisher.
The publication has attained geezer status in the online world, although in the magazine world it's still in diapers.
But this baby is on growth hormones: Advertising sales were up 49.5% to 724.02 pages in 1998, from the comparable 1997 period. The magazine boasts an abundance of technology advertisers, such as Apple Computer, Buy.com, Compaq Computer Corp., Gateway, Intel Corp., and Micron Electronics, as well as non-endemic advertisers, like Kraft Foods' Altoids, R.J. Reynold's Camel, Edge shaving gel, Marlboro, Toyota Motor Sales USA, and Volkswagen of America.
New advertisers in 1999 include Calvin Klein Cosmetics, CompuServe, American Express Cardmember Services, Diesel, Energizer and Canon USA. They reflect Publisher Paul Turcotte's agenda to pursue the fashion, financial services and telecommunications categories.
"From the advertisers' perspective, it's good to use a publication that has so much reader involvement," says Steve Greenberger, senior VP-print media director at Grey Advertising's MediaCom, New York. "We know there's reader involvement because people keep it around as a reference tool. I think the ad community felt the editorial was right on."
"It's a young, affluent magazine," says Allison Slater, media planner at Calvin Klein Cosmetics, which advertised its CK One fragrance in Yahoo! for the first time in the February 1999 issue. "Our brand is young and Yahoo! is cutting edge."
She says she is always looking for opportunities that "enable us to reach out beyond beauty and fashion [magazines]."
The magazine's circulation has continued to grow wildly as well. Circulation was up 39% over the prior year to 453,433 as of Dec. 31, 1998, according to Audit Bureau of Circulation figures. Those numbers are even more remarkable considering the means of acquiring new readers. Most new subscribers have been found online, a more profitable route.
Although Mr. Turcotte says there have been some isolated direct-mail subscription tests and the magazine regularly uses blow-in cards, the company does not rely on traditional means for building a subscriber base.
"We haven't had to go the stamp-sheet route," he says, referring to the business of garnering new readers through subscription agents like Publishers Clearing House. "Almost all of our circulation comes from online efforts."
The Yahoo! partnership makes a big difference, giving Yahoo! Internet Life brand name recognition, but also connecting it to readers from many different touch points.
Links on Yahoo! from both the home page and within specific topics listed bring potential readers to the Yahoo! Internet Life Web site, which has an offer for a trial issue of the magazine and the option to pay $19.99 for 11 more issues. In addition, links can be found at other Web sites, including Theglobe.com and CBS Sportsline (www.cbssportsline.com).
Although not an immediate plan, the next step to building circulation would be to tap into the magazine's million-name database, says Mr. Turcotte. The database is derived from past respondents to the free issue offered online, who chose not to subscribe.
"That will be the next natural step if we need to expand what we're doing beyond the online effort," he says.
Yahoo! Internet Life covers the Internet but does so as a general interest consumer publication with an Internet focus.
"The trick is taking people's real lives and crossing that with the Internet, as opposed to saying here's what's under the hood and here's how it works," says Editor Barry Golson. "[Yahoo! Internet Life] chronicles all the different ways the Internet has changed our lives."
Mr. Golson, who has been a top editor at such pop culture titles as Playboy and TV Guide, draws comparisons to Rolling Stone and Entertainment Weekly. "Rolling Stone began by reviewing music and the people who made music, but went on to report on the culture," he says. "The opportunity is here for us to not only review Internet content, but to look at where the medium is going and how it affects the culture."
At the time Yahoo! Internet Life was launched, more than 20 magazines for the Internet user existed. Considerable investment was made by many, including established publishers who rushed into the new category of Internet titles which were overtaking the once-hot technology category. International Data Group's launch of The Web in November 1996 went head-to-head with Yahoo! Internet Life; that magazine folded in January 1998.
In December 1997, Mecklermedia shuttered its monthly version of Internet World and gave that name to its weekly controlled title Web Week. Imagine Publishing relaunched The Net in July 1998 as Business 2.0, turning it from a consumer publication much like Yahoo! Internet Life to a publication focused on business stories. Similarly, CMP Media shut down NetGuide. Of those mainstream consumer magazines, today only Yahoo! Internet Life remains standing.
Perhaps Yahoo! Internet Life's staying power can be attributed to the fact that the magazine from the beginning made its editorial content accessible, appealing to the average consumer with a curiosity about the Internet's impact.
"We were the first magazine to say, 'Hey, folks, this is not for geeks. There are no velvet ropes here to prevent you from coming on board,' " says Mr. Golson. Throughout much change in the online world, its voice and reporting has remained consistent.
"I think at the end of the day, we probably serve one of the biggest needs in the marketplace right now," says Mr. Turcotte. "The Internet doesn't come with