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
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
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.’
Publisher Cover ABC sales
price Jan-June 99
.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