MEDIA: COMPUTERACTIVE AND WEBUSER: AN EXPERT'S VIEW - IPC should have come up with a new sub-category of magazine in Webuser, Mark Holden says

So the ex-editor of VNU's Computeractive, Jim Lennox, is employed

by IPC to set up a curiously similar looking magazine called


Can this be classed as passing off? Well, VNU argued this case

vociferously through a good old writ. It claimed that it was a flagrant

attempt to position Webuser as a spin-off publication and therefore

plugging into all of the brand trust that currently exists in their

327,962 circulating brand. IPC retorted with the pragmatic response that

it is a completely different magazine - Computeractive is all about

monitors and silicon chips whereas Webuser is about web action.

In my self-appointed role as a mediator, I have to say that I side with

VNU. The initial masthead and general style of the magazine was just too

close. A similarity of such, say, within the baked beans market would

have elicited a similar response - even if the new entrant included

sausages and egg. Anyway, IPC have made the necessary amendments so

we're all friends again.

However, and as IPC stated, the products themselves are very


In Webuser, IPC has produced a magazine aimed at the virgin web-market

and the current web-hungry die-hards. Flicking through the magazine the

first thing that I stumbled upon was the obligatory snapshot of the best

new websites, a calendar of forthcoming web events, a satirical look at

the political parties' online offerings, a review of bargain-shopper

sites and a curious appraisal of fast-food sites with a ridiculously

over- comprehensive rating system.

In stark contrast, Computeractive is a magazine about hardware. For

example, the latest issue will tell you all about the new range of

big-screen monitors, a new animation package that enables you to create

your own cartoons and the latest ways of setting up wireless


What strikes me about both magazines, and in fact this whole category,

is how similar looking they all are. Which leads me to think that IPC

missed an opportunity to come at the consumer from a different


They have produced a magazine that still seems routed in the "computer

sector" as opposed to a consumer- friendly TV Times for internet


Have they missed a much bigger potential market? For example, coming

from a TV listing route would have enabled IPC to create a new magazine

sub-category or, at the very least, negotiate a shelf position with much

higher visibility.

This could have pulled them up and out of the five-figure circulation

territory and ultimately would have avoided the messy debacle with



Publisher: IPC

Frequency: Fortnightly

Price: 99p

Initial print run: 285,000

Full-page colour ad: pounds 5,300

Advertisers include: (17 May-30 May issue), Intel,

Hewlett-Packard,, Fujitsu Siemens


Publisher: VNU

Frequency: Fortnightly

Price: pounds 1.20

Average circulation: 327,962

Full-page colour ad: pounds 5,789

Advertisers include: Dell, Intel, BT Internet, Tiny, LineOne, Samsung,

Epson, Microsoft