NEWS ANALYSIS: Sink or swim time as net titles race to attract loyal surfers - Not all the web magazines will survive in this flooded sector. By Colin Grimshaw

The entry of four new titles in six months has doubled the size of the internet magazine sector. Last week saw the launch of Crazynet, a new magazine for the lads’ market, while What’s Online has moved away from male readers to target a new, broader territory.

The entry of four new titles in six months has doubled the size of

the internet magazine sector. Last week saw the launch of Crazynet, a

new magazine for the lads’ market, while What’s Online has moved away

from male readers to target a new, broader territory.



So have publishers discovered an endless wave of web surfers, or is the

sector in danger of becoming swamped? And as new users become better at

navigating the net, is there any long-term future for what basically

amount to ’TV guides’ to the web?



Future group publisher John Weir thinks there will be casualties. ’It’s

extremely cut-throat. Slashed ad rates and cheap cover prices can only

mean that those without a solid foundation will go bust,’ he

predicts.



Sonja Woolley, Internet Magazine’s associate publisher, wonders how many

new internet users will continue to buy a magazine regularly once

they’ve learned how to navigate and built up a list of favourite sites.

’TV is a moveable feast. But for how long will users need a TV guide to

the internet?’ she asks.



Others suggest the internet market is far from exhausted. ’Search

engines are rubbish and people need URLs to save time,’ argues Weir. ’In

Britain we have a huge magazine habit. We use them for sign-posting to

find information.’



Haymarket group editor Mark Payton believes that only good editorial

products with a clear purpose will survive. ’Those that try to be all

things to all people will fail,’ he says.



The market can be divided into three distinct segments: early

adopters/techies; families new to the internet and young males chasing

the hottest porn sites. The first category is the most established,

comprising serious users and web builders, and is the domain of Emap

Active’s Internet Magazine and Future’s market-leading .Net.



The family category is the biggest growth area, stimulated by the many

new users who need a ’hold-my-hand’ guide to web surfing with lots of

site reviews and addresses.



Emap Active has yet to move into this area. ’We are looking at the

market but we are not sure it will work,’ cautioned Woolley.



Haymarket’s The Net has taken a different approach. This is a lifestyle

magazine, big on design and production values and aimed at a mainstream

audience which is not obsessed with technology. The idea is to open up

new lifestyle advertising categories other than the staple of ISPs and

websites. While praising The Net’s design, Weir is unsure about its

positioning. ’It’s a very brave move, but we have yet to see a lifestyle

magazine that has found a loyal readership,’ he says.



As for the lads’ sector, there is almost universal scepticism. With

men’s magazines like FHM, Loaded and Front already sign-posting the best

’babe’ sites and magazines such as X-Net covering the more explicit porn

end of the market, observers predict a rocky future for Crazynet.



What’s Online may have chosen to pull out of the lads’ market just in

time - but many doubt that a magazine which has traditionally carried

porn ads can re-position itself for females and families.



With technology speeding ahead, and internet access via TV and mobile

phones looming on the horizon, the market is set to remain volatile for

some time yet.



As Woolley puts it: ’One year in internet magazines is like five years

in the rest of publishing.’





INTERNET MAGAZINES

                       Publisher           Cover               ABC sales

                                           price             Jan-June 99

                                           (pounds)

.net                   Future              2.99                   55,280

Internet Magazine      Emap Active         3.10                   47,192

Internet Works         Future              2.99                   24,388

Internet Access        Paragon             3.95                   19,041

What’s Online          Paragon             3.95                   12,028

Internet Monthly       IT Publishing       1.99          Launched Mar 99

Internet Advisor       Future              1.99          Launched May 99

The Net                Haymarket           1.99         Launched June 99

Crazynet               Freeway             2.99          Launched Oct 99



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