IT: THE E-MAGAZINES - Internet aficionados are remaining loyal to old-fashioned print media. But is there the advertising to justify more titles? Robert Gray investigates

By ROBERT GRAY, campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 01 September 2000 12:00AM

The arrival of the internet prompted discussions of a paperless society, yet the sector continues to generate a broad range of print magazines devoted to enhancing the online experience. Global electronic communications medium it may be, but those with an interest in all things online seem to be just as happy to read about it through the printed word as they are to glean information from websites.

The arrival of the internet prompted discussions of a paperless

society, yet the sector continues to generate a broad range of print

magazines devoted to enhancing the online experience. Global electronic

communications medium it may be, but those with an interest in all

things online seem to be just as happy to read about it through the

printed word as they are to glean information from websites.



In recent years, there has been a glut of internet-related magazine

launches from traditional publishers. There are now titles covering

almost every imaginable aspect of the internet. Broadly speaking, they

can be divided into three main categories: consumer how-to and

what’s-on-the-web guides; business titles focusing on specific areas of

commercial life in the new economy, such as marketing or securing

funding, and business titles covering the web in general.



The most recent addition to the broad range of internet business titles

is the monthly Business 2.0. This was launched in the UK in May by

Future Publishing, having first established its brand across the

Atlantic two years ago. The launch issue ran to 164 pages.



Next month will see the debut of another European version of a US

stalwart, the weekly title The Industry Standard Europe, which is

majority owned by the technology publisher IDG but also numbers Pearson,

the publisher of the Financial Times, among its backers.



Meanwhile, the doyen of general internet business titles, Red Herring,

which first emerged in the US in 1993, is boosting its international

coverage.



By internet standards, Red Herring is ancient and often comes in at more

than 600 pages per month. Although it claims to have no intention of

producing a localised edition for Europe, it is building up its

editorial bureaux in Europe and is targeting European advertisers.



Even before it became more global in its outlook it had a considerable

European readership.



’We are adapting Red Herring so that it is becoming more global and

relevant to readers everywhere,’ its international editor, Kenneth

Cukier, says.



’We start from the insight that technology is an ingredient for all

business and our model is that of the International Herald Tribune or

The Economist, rather than The Wall Street Journal or Business Week with

their separate editions.’



Maybe, but The Industry Standard Europe’s editor-in-chief, James

Ledbetter, argues that there is more than enough going on in Europe for

it to merit general internet business publications of its own. He says

his own title’s weekly frequency will be an important point of

differentiation.



It will, he adds, be much more news driven. Moreover, the intention is

to place news in a broader context and ’interpret and direct coverage’

in the manner of The Economist. Start up circulation will be about

50,000.



Yet some analysts wonder whether there is enough room in the market for

several general business titles and whether some of the titles have a

clear enough focus on their audience.



Among the sceptics is Mike Jarvis, the media director at Banner, an

agency specialising in the technology sector. ’One of the big issues is

whether there is sufficient advertising to support all these titles,’

Jarvis says.



’A lot of the magazines have a problem identifying their market.’



Nigel Sheldon, a managing partner at MindShare, believes part of the

problem lies in the heritage of the internet magazine sector. ’It has

always been about presenting guidance and help for the new user,’ he

says, ’both in terms of getting on the net and as digests of interesting

sites to look at. As a result, there has been a ’me-too’ element to a

lot of the coverage, making it hard for titles to differentiate

themselves.’



Helena Sturridge, the publishing director for a group of titles at Reed

Business Information including Computer Weekly, agrees that there is

confusion as to who is being targeted by some of the more general

internet business titles. She wonders whether some have been launched

just because the sector is ’sexy’ at the moment and questions whether

the sector has a long-term future.



Not surprisingly, Sturridge defends Reed’s own product e-Business

Review, which goes out monthly to 50,000 of Computer Weekly’s regular

readership, plus a further 15,000 people identified as being a relevant

audience.



The composition of this audience is strongly weighted towards those with

decision-making responsibilities for IT procurement, making them

attractive to technology advertisers, Sturridge claims.



Sturridge also mounts a strong argument in favour of localised

editorial.



’A lot of the Computer Weekly readership has told us that things don’t

always translate well to a UK audience. There is more WAP here, we take

on different business processes. So it’s important to look at things

from a UK perspective.’



Yet perspectives can shift, especially in the area of new

technology.



At the start of this year, dotcom mania was in full flow. Legions of

bright young e-entrepreneurs seemed to be on the verge of making

millions out of their internet start-ups. But by the summer, the mood

seemed to be changing. A number of companies went bust, most notably

boo.com. Suddenly caution became a watchword among investors and the

value of many internet stocks tumbled.



So does this signify that the boom is over? And if it is, doesn’t that

mean an ill wind is blowing for the internet business titles?



Ledbetter refutes this scenario. He asserts that, although a number of

dotcoms are coming unstuck, the prognosis for the new economy as a whole

is extremely healthy. ’A lot of the businesses that have attempted to

tackle the net have found it a black hole,’ he says. ’But we believe in

the bigger picture: that it will change the way Europe does

business.’





Interactive marketing



Clearly, one of the most fundamental issues for dotcoms and clicks and

mortar companies is marketing. Huge numbers of online brands have been

created and marketers have had to wrestle with the implications of

interactive advertising and one-to-one marketing.



This has opened the way for magazines specialising in new-media

marketing.



The two strong players here are Campaign’s sister title Revolution and

Centaur Communications’ New Media Age. Both have carved out strong

positions for themselves. This summer Future launched into a narrower

niche with Cre@te.online, a monthly aimed at professional web

designers.



Venture capital and other means of funding e-businesses is another major

area of the new economy that has led to the emergence of specialist

business titles. In May 2000, Euromoney Institutional Investor launched

eVantage, a monthly publication focusing on this area.



’No other magazine is positioned in the same space as eVantage - the

financing of dotcoms and the strategic implications of the internet for

traditional companies,’ eVantage’s publisher, John Willis, says. ’Others

cover this sector as part of general news/information coverage - but

obviously not in such depth - or within publications providing a more

generalist coverage of the internet. Our research has shown that our

target market is looking for highly focused editorial addressing those

issues of key relevance to their businesses.’



Two thirds of its 20,000 circulation goes to senior executives at

dotcoms or traditional businesses with e-commerce activities. The rest

is split between institutional investors, venture capitalists, financial

advisers and bankers involved in consulting or funding e-commerce

ventures. The majority of the title’s distribution is in Europe, but 28

per cent goes to the US and 4 per cent to Asia.



However, perhaps the most competitive sector of the market is among

those titles aimed at the consumer, with publishers including Future,

Paragon, Haymarket and Emap all battling for readers.



Paragon alone has four titles in this heavily contested sector: Internet

Made Easy, Web Pages Made Easy, Practical Internet and What’s

Online.



Combined, these have an ABC of below 100,000 and are finding the going

fairly tough. One reason for this is the success of titles such as VNU’s

Computer Active, a consumer computer magazine that devotes a large part

of its editorial mix to the internet and boasts a circulation of more

than 300,000.



’Magazines like Computer Active have a lot of internet content and that

has affected us and Future, and everybody else in the sector,’ Paragon

Publishing’s managing editor of internet magazines, Geoff Harris,

concedes.



Although Haymarket with the net, Future with .net and Emap with Internet

magazine have similarly titled products, publishers are also starting to

develop more tightly focused niche titles.



Sheldon believes that this trend will continue as the target readers

become more mature users of the net. ’The challenge now will be to cater

for the significant numbers of internet users who require more than just

basic information,’ he says. ’Especially as this is now readily

available from the national press.’



Future has been the most aggressive in this respect. It has launched

Internet Investor, which, as its name suggests, is targeted at those

buying and selling shares online. In April this year it brought out MP3

to focus on the ’internet music revolution’ and in July it premiered WAP

- Mobiles, the Internet & Beyond to appeal to readers with an interest

in the convergence of cellular phones and the internet.



According to the net’s publishing manager, Sharon Todd, ever greater

leisure use of the internet is helping the expansion of the internet

magazine marketplace. But clearly publishers are having to respond to

changing usage patterns and the impact of new technologies.



It is inevitable that more and more specialised publications will be

launched in the coming months and years. As any marketer with more than

a passing acquaintance with the web will tell you, one of its

outstanding virtues is its potential for extremely well-targeted

communications.





THROUGH THE PORTAL



Claire Butcher, the media director at Ogilvy Primary Contact, takes a

tour of UK publishers’ online sites.



The five major IT publishers all have significant interactive

offerings.



There are others, reaching the same audience, that should also be

mentioned in any comprehensive study - silicon.com, CNET.com (US based),

IT Network (now linked with computerweekly.co.uk), ITportal.com and

CMPNet.com.





vnunet.com



Originally started as a portfolio of magazine websites, recent

investment and promotion of the site means it is now much better

organised. It gives the latest news, searchable archives, a big

recruitment section and much more. Like computerweekly.co.uk, it is for

serious professionals reading VNU titles such as Computing and CRN.



Traffic is increasing and June figures are claimed to be around 500,000

unique users and two million page impressions.





ComputerWeekly.co.uk



Spun out of Reed’s weekly title for IT professionals, the site is also

specifically targeted to this niche audience. There are no gaming

channels here, just good up-to-date IT news and an impressive and easily

searchable archive, plus useful subjects such as training, recruitment

and IT security.



Very functional and informative. Figures for June are given as 143,807

unique users and 1,213,015 page impressions.





ZDNet.co.uk



A technology site - launched by Ziff Davis and now owned by CNET.com -

appealing to a wide audience ranging from teenage gamers to senior IT

professionals. ABC Electronic’s March 2000 audit shows 1.2 million

unique users and 10.3 million page impressions.



Channels include News, IT in the Enterprise, MP3, Games and

Auctions.



Particularly useful is the software library (more than 40,000 downloads)

and Netbuyer, ZDNet’s comparative shopping channel. It is hard to

believe any user would need to go anywhere else unless they were

overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information here.





dailyradar.co.uk



Imported from Future in the US, but running 80 per cent UK content, this

new gaming portal is radically different from Future’s other

magazine-linked sites. It consists of five channels - PC, Sony,

Nintendo, Sega and Showbiz - with additional content provided by

affiliates. First figures for June are showing 452,658 unique users and

2,858,726 page impressions.



A great site for their 97 per cent male, 16- to 30-year-old

audience.





Dennis Interactive



Not a portal as such, but a portfolio of magazine-related websites:

computershopper.co.uk, computerbuyer.co.uk; macuser.co.uk; pcpro.co.uk;

dreamcast.co.uk, and pczone.co.uk. Figures vary from computerbuyer’s

29,992 June visitors and 804,376 page impressions to pcpro.co.uk’s

114,522 June visitors and 4,334,682 page impressions.



A basic entry-level approach, it will be interesting to see if Dennis

develops a more interactive portal covering the IT communities it

understands, such as SoHo and Mac users.



This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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