Consumer Magazine Report: Techno-color

Magazines reflect technology as a way of life
Technology is not just for geeks anymore. At least that’s the premise of a growing crop of general-interest magazines that have a tech twist.
Time in November 1995 launched a controlled-circulation pub called Time Digital. It was sent for free eight times a year to Time subscribers who requested it–a total of 900,000 readers. In April, the magazine will debut as a stand-alone monthly and increase its rate base to 1 million.
“We think there’s a great opportunity here for a mass-market consumer-oriented technology magazine,” says editor Joshua Quittner.
Time Digital targets readers ages 30 to 50, providing information on how to integrate technology into their lives, with the emphasis on the how-to. Time subscribers currently receiving Time Digital will continue to get it free for a while; hopefully they will like the new, expanded version enough to eventually buy a subscription, which will likely set them back around $20, says publisher Dick Raskopf.
Meanwhile, far from the how-to front, is Shift, a hip, handsome book whose core readers are 25- to 34-year-old Internet-start-up types who have what editor in chief Laas Turnbull calls “an ironic sensibility.” The cover story of the March issue cheerfully remakes a Bill Gates look-alike as a slick, Armani-wearing “glamour-puss,” among other incarnations that do not involve khakis and a navy blazer.
This year, Shift, which has a rate base of 150,000, will be beefing up the pop-culture reviews in “Scroll,” its front section. “I think one of the areas we can own is online entertainment,” says Turnbull, who considers Rolling Stone, Spin, and Entertainment Weekly competitors, “because I don’t think anyone is really covering it in any serious kind of a way.”
Although the folks at Yahoo! Internet Life might disagree. YIL looks, reads and quips like EW, counts film critic Roger Ebert among its contributors and even has its own awards show, the Online Music Awards, now in its third year. Entertainment is very much this magazine’s focus. This year, in fact, YIL will roll out a new awards extravaganza March 22-23 in Los Angeles, this one for online films. YIL’s circ will rise from 900,000 to 1.2 million by January 2001, and 45 percent of the magazine’s ads are non-endemic.
Wired, of course, was one of the first magazines to take on digital life, and it has managed to stay relevant despite all of the new entries in this category. The magazine, which launched seven years ago, covers how technology affects both business and culture. Its readership is 80 percent male, with a median age of 40–people who publisher Drew Schutte defines as”e-leaders.” With the first four issues of this year, the 475,000-circ magazine is up 77 percent over 1999. This summer, Wired will unveil what Schutte says are the first interactive advertising pages ever published. He declined to give details but said the pages will connect directly to the Web.
Web-linked ad pages? The idea would have been beyond comprehension just a few short years ago. But then, so would many of these digitally driven publications.
“[Technology is] integrating so completely into our lives that in another three to five years, we’ll be wholly settled in,” observes Time Digital’s Quittner. “And to write about this will be to write about life itself.” –Kristina Felician