Net pub future

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It's hardly the worst problem to have: Net magazines have gotten so thick with ads some marketers are pulling out, saying the booming titles are too cluttered. While a few exit, the many remain, of course; but "new economy" publishers nevertheless need to be planning for the day when their hot category cools down.

It's common to hear stories of Net industry executives saying they are too busy to wade through the phone book-thick new economy titles weighing down their in boxes. Some magazines are responding by offering more issues to spread out the ad page crush, or spinoff publications that offer marketers a less cluttered venue for their ad message.

Yet against this backdrop, the specter of an eventual slowdown, and shakeout, looms. While many of these magazines are successfully pursuing ad categories outside the high-tech fold, dot-com ad budgets still loom large in their business mix. And dot-coms are in a period of consolidation and belt-tightening.

Less than a decade ago, personal computer magazines were just as fat as today's new economy titles. But then the door slammed shut. Magazines that had been hundreds of pages thick have shrunk, gone out of business or attempted to restage as e-business titles. The PC industry is still huge but the technology is mature, and margins are tight. The world has moved beyond PC magazines.

The Internet revolution is just beginning. But growth in the Internet is not necessarily the same as growth in ad pages in Internet magazines. Net titles have a bigger issue to deal with than whether current issues are too big to handle: Which of them will remain relevant as the Internet gets down to business for the long haul. Figure on one thing. While the PC magazine field unfolded over many years, the Internet title shakeout will occur in Internet time. That's the Net net.

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