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Computer Life, Ziff-Davis Consumer Media Group's first foray into consumer computer publishing, conveys one main message: Computing is hot.

Ziff-Davis Publishing Co., the giant computer publisher put up for sale June 10, showed off a 20-page prototype of its entry at last week's Consumer Electronics Show in Chicago.

The sample of the monthly magazine that hits newsstands Sept. 12, based on an exclusive preview for Advertising Age, blends an eclectic and varied graphic approach with a highly personal writing style. The cover price is $2.95, but the first issue will have a promotional price of $1.95.

"It doesn't look like a Ziff book or Family PC [a Ziff-Walt Disney Co. joint venture under Disney editorial control]," said Mike Edelhart, the Ziff-Davis Consumer Media Group exec VP overseeing editorial aspects of the introduction. "It's like New York magazine, if anything."

The mock-up consists of a Marshall McLuhanesque mix ranging from a how-to section dubbed "Just Do It" to a feature about the search for the 20 best CD-ROMs, Mr. Edelhart said. Other sections, like "Buzz," will focus on gossipy, topical news; then there's "Street Smarts," including columnists ranging from the sober Money Master to the thrill-seeking online Cybernaut.

Though the ad deadline for the inaugural October issue isn't until Aug. 2, staffers are counting on more than 200 pages in the magazine. A one-time b&w page costs $11,885; a color page is $15,450.

Charter advertisers get discounts of 30%. Marketers who have already signed include AT&T Direct and Epson America.

To reach the 300,000-circulation target for the first issue, the magazine dropped 2.1 million pieces of direct mail on June 6.

Computer Life executives downplayed the parent company's pending sale.

"Essentially, we're changing bankers," said Mr. Edelhart, noting that since former Ziff-Davis Publishing Co. Chairman Bill Ziff's recent retirement, the three sons have had little to do with operations. President-CEO Eric Hippeau runs the day-to-day business.

Computer Life is located in San Francisco's Multimedia Gulch, home to many software companies and rival computer publishers like Wired and International Data Group.

While close to competitors, Computer Life executives are pleased they're thousands of miles from Ziff's New York headquarters. That will allow them to follow a path distinct from Ziff's usual computing books.

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