Rather than hasten print's demise, the Web is ensuring its future
Once the Internet got its legs, many magazine insiders feared that the end of magazine publishing wasn't far away.
Not so fast. The Web is being used to bolster sagging print sales as well as to inspire new titles. And several crossover projects are on the way.
"There's a bigger symbiosis between print and the Web than any two media ever," says Jim Spanfeller, executive vp/consumer magazines for Ziff-Davis. He should know. His company was the first to successfully launch a print title based on an existing Web site. Yahoo Internet Life! bowed in Sept. 1996 and now has a circulation of 900,000. That number will rise to 1 million this fall.
Next up for Ziff-Davis' reverse pollination: a magazine spun off from Microsoft's Expedia.com travel Web site. The as-yet-unnamed magazine will launch in late summer with an initial rate base of 200,000.
"It'll feel a lot like Travel & Leisure and Condƒ Nast Traveler, with the same production value and photographs of beautiful places to visit," says Spanfeller. "But we'll focus on the use of technology and the Web in travel--how to use technology to send pictures back to the folks at home, find out about the weather at your next stop, or figure out the conversion rate from dollars to lire."
Randy Jones, meanwhile, is touting Worth magazine's new online venture. The Worth Media CEO will relaunch Worth.com in September as "the first-ever vertical portal for the top 5 percent of the economic pyramid."
Worth.com will provide components such as portfolio management, a philanthropic database, and an upscale concierge.
Worth's Web site may also provide a way to bolster sales of its parent magazine. "We're beginning to crack the code to use the Internet to drive circulation to magazines," says Jones, who has had difficulty increasing the rate base (currently 500,000) of his magazine. The Web has certainly worked for YIL circ.
"We sell the largest number of subscriptions for [YIL] online," says Spanfeller, "where the magazine is in its entirety for free."
Some editors, like Chee Pearlman, feel that magazines today cannot succeed without a Web site. Last month she departed her editor's chair at I.D. to assume editor-in-chief duties at One Ventures, a new print title backed by Sierra Ventures, a Silicon Valley venture-capital firm. The editorial of the magazine, published by Dana Lyon, former executive publisher of Wired, will cover design, culture, and innovation. One Ventures will debut in the fall--along with its Web site.
"Our Web site will enhance the magazine and also have an e-commerce component," says Pearlman.
That's something that you can't get in a magazine. And if you're a publisher, it's nothing to be frightened about.
"They're two different mediums," says Spanfeller. "There's a great back-and-forth value At the end of the day, the Web will be the best thing that ever happened to magazines." --Brett Forres