Welcome to Online Magazines From A to Z, a comprehensive discussion of Web publishing issues. Feel free to jump from letter to letter or take your time scrolling through the topics. The HOME link will bring you back to this introduction, and if you're curious, you can examine SOURCES as well. Below each piece is a link to a magazine that begins with the corresponding letter. Enjoy the amazing alphabet of online magazines.
-- Sara Lyle firstname.lastname@example.org
Online advertising is becoming increasingly enticing for all parties involved. Flashy banner ads lure more and more consumers to product home pages everyday. Shoppers can purchase, and often customize, goods and services without leaving their computer screen.
Advertisers like the convenient demographics and concrete numbers that the online ordering format lends. And Web magazines make more than half of their revenues from these types of advertisements, states the Magazine Publishers of America's 1996 Online Survey.
Soon, though, advertisers and publishers will need to agree on standard measurements for the online medium. "Should advertisers pay for the number of online consumers viewing their advertisement? Should they pay only when a consumer clicks on their advertisement? Or when the product is purchased online?" These are questions about online advertising that the MPA feels must be answered in the near future.
Magazines that you can find on both the Web and the newsstand aren't very different from one another yet. The Magazine Publishers of America's 1996 Online Survey estimates that about 70 percent of online magazine content is taken directly from corresponding print versions. Whereas, online-only brands "draw less of the content from the publishers' magazine brands and develop much more unique online-only content," the MPA states.
This dumping of print material into an online brand's format is what University of Florida instructor David Carlson calls "shovelware." Carlson, an internationally known Internet consultant, says most electronic publications don't take full advantage of the online medium's potential. His advice to Web site creators on how to avoid this all-to-common mistake is, "Make it personally useful."
Business Week Online
"Many news organizations have been struggling with what to put on their Web sites, since they are loath to scoop -- or, in industry lingo, cannibalize -- their traditional, still-lucrative versions," writes Marguerite Holloway in The New Frontier, an article featured in Columbia Business School's online alumni magazine, Hermes.
Similar to this site's discussion of "brand," Web magazines' contents still are closely related to, if not exactly the same as, their print brothers and sisters'. Most commonly, online mags feature their major print brands' articles with some additions like archives, forums, and feedback sections.
Several larger magazines -- Time Daily, People Magazine Online and CNNSI -- update information each day. These types of Web magazines' contents increasingly are taking over traditional newspapers' roles. Likewise, by updating information numerous time daily, online newspapers are closing in on broadcast news's territory.
Click Interactive Magazine
Magazine Web sites are accessed by clicking a mouse pointer on a link or by typing a site's URL, or Internet address. The domain name, for instance "...nationalgeographic.com," is an important identifier in this process. "As the number of people online increases, the Internet becomes more attractive to those who hope to exploit its growth," writes Ira S. Nathenson in the University of Pittsburg Law Review. "It therefore becomes essential to choose a domain name that is short, simple and easy to remember."
Nathenson explains that trademark law allows parties to use the same famous name simultaneously when such use is unlikely to confuse consumers. "On the Internet ... businesses use the extension '.com,' which precludes concurrent use of the same famous name," she says.
While this excludes legitimate publications from using the same name, magazine publishers must beware of what Nathenson calls "squatters" and "parasites." Squatters register domains related to famous companies and then hold the names for ransom. Parasites register names "confusingly similar" to companies domains and then divert potential customers.
The World Wide Web has produced ethical dilemmas for journalists -- as if there weren't already enough. Reporters lurking invisibly in chat rooms, ad links embedded in editorial copy, and the posting of private tragedies in news archives until the end of time are just some of the problems that J.D. Lasica discusses in his AJR News Link article, "Preserving Old Ethics in a New Medium." Especially troubling to Lasica is the "quid pro quo between a Web publication and outside interests such as advertisers or business allies."
The appearance that editorial and commercial content are linked "poses a threat to the integrity of Web journalism," Lasica says. Practices like providing links to products that are written about in an article blur the line between publications and their advertisers.
Fred Mann, general manager of Philadelphia Online, is quoted in the article, "There's considerable pressure on online publishers to grow the business and start making money, so the temptation to fudge the line is great." However, Mann says publications mustn't yield because their most precious resource is credibility.
Elle Magazine Online
The ability to give feedback to magazine staffers is included on 85 percent of surveyed publishers' magazine Web sites, states the Magazine Publishers of America's 1996 Online Survey. "The second most common feature of the respondents' online sites ... indicates that publishers both understand and are acting to take advantage of one of the fundamental properties of the medium; its ability to facilitate and enhance communication and interaction," says the study.
In third place behind "marketing and public relations" and "competitive advantage," 54 percent of MPA's respondents even said consumer feedback was their online magazine's main objective. Primarily, publications provide opportunities for readers' voices to be heard by offering the e-mail address of the Webmaster, having online reader forums, creating electronic polls and questionnaires, or simply including e-mail links to general magazine mailboxes.
Family PC on the Web
An exciting feature of the Web's graphical interface is what the name itself implies -- it's graphical. Appealing combinations of electronic pictures and words play to two of traditional magazines' strengths. However, online magazine designers should heed the words of Laura Lemay, author of "Teach Yourself Web Publishing with HTML 3.2 in 14 Days."
"The use of images in Web pages is one of the bigger arguments among users and providers of Web pages today," she says. "For everyone who wants to design Web pages with more, bigger and brighter images ... there is someone on a slow network connection who is begging for fewer images so that his or her browser doesn't take three hours to load a page."
While journalists have always strived to make reading easier on their audiences, Web publishing adds a new twist to the old "lowest common denominator" philosophy. Lemay suggests that designers keep images less than 20K so pictures can be seen faster. Sites that take longer than 30 seconds to download are especially tedious for magazine readers to view.
Most of the online magazine industry got on the Web bandwagon during 1995 or 1996, according to the Magazine Publishers of America's 1996 Online Survey. The study found that only five percent of the 304 magazine brands owned by surveyed publishers were online in 1994. However, Mosaic, the original graphical Web browser, was only developed in January 1993 and Netscape incorporated as a company in April 1994. So, those five percent of magazines were leading the pack.
"Magazine publishers, as demonstrated by their market entry and financial investment, are clearly alert to the importance of the online medium, especially the Internet, to the future of the communications industry," states the MPA. Yet, trademark and copyright infringement continue to be problems for the online industry. As Ira Nathenson writes in "Showdown at the Domain Name Corral: Property Rights and Personal Jurisdiction Over Squatters, Poachers and Other Parasites," "You thought that 'WWW' stood for 'World Wide Web,' but it feels more like the 'Wild, Wild West.'"
"Respondents indicated that in 1997 fewer outside contractors and vendors will be used in the areas of editorial content, graphic design, and programming/coding," states the Magazine Publishers of America's 1996 Online Survey. MPA's respondents predicted that 91 percent of their editorial content would be produced internally, and in-house programming and coding would increase 13 percent.
In addition, 40 percent of surveyed publishers already had sales forces "specifically dedicated to new media advertising." While the other 60 percent used internal print sales staff to sell online advertising, according to the MPA. This trend toward internalization combined with many publishers' goal of creating unique online content, bodes well for career advancement for both job-hunters and those already hired.
The scope of online journalism seems to be broadening faster than you can say, "HyperText Markup Language." Ethical, technological and monetary considerations are springing up from every direction. The future of Web publishing is like a virtual Dr. Seuss illustration.
One of the most promising innovations involves offering continuously updated information and allowing readers to personalize versions of publications' content. Currently done more with e-newspapers than with electronic magazines, the trend is still worth noting.
In a Harvard University study, "Innovations in the Newspaper Market and Experience with Web Initiatives," researchers write about MIT Fishwrap, an e-newspaper for Massachusettes Institute of Technology freshmen. "Fishwrap is an experimental personalized newspaper, initiated as a site for freshman students to enable them to get a quick source of information, create their own newspaper and to enable them to maintain connection with the places and cultures they are originally from."
Jane Magazine (an article about)
"Close to 500 years ago Johann Gutenberg spawned a revolution in publishing with the invention of the printing press. Mass production of information was enabled," write the authors of "Information Access: A Cornerstone of Web Publishing." "Today, many believe that we are witnessing a revolution in publishing of equal, if not greater, magnitude with the emergence of the World Wide Web and MOSAIC."
The group then explains in its paper how the Web's format lends itself readily to traditional publishing building blocks -- content, medium, market and access. These Web dynamics have spurred on online magazine production and have prompted the nickname, "killer app."
"It is no accident that WWW/MOSAIC is being termed the 'killer environment/ app,'" they state. "Its appeal is well founded in both technological elegance and solid business rational," they continue. "The Web could significantly alter the state of publishing, broadening the scope and depth of the community."
Computer science visionary Vannevar Bush wrote in his 1945 article, "As We May Think," about a not-yet-invented "associative indexing" system called Memex. He wrote, "With one item in (the mind's) grasp, it snaps instantly to the next that is suggested by the association of thoughts, in accordance with some intricate web of trails carried by the cells of the brain."
Although never developed as Bush envisioned, the system's non-linear concepts foreshadowed almost 40 years of progress, culminating with the killer app itself in the early '90s. With the Web's arrival and it's accompanying hyperlinks, came the subsequent misuse and overuse of such links.
Author Laura Lemay gives advice that online publishers should heed. In Lemay's book, "Teach Yourself Web Publishing with HTML 3.2 in 14 Days," she says, "Each link should serve a purpose. Link for relevant reasons." She cautions against overusing links, "It's possible to create so many tangents that your readers spend so much time linking elsewhere that they can't follow the point of your original text."
Since the number of competing sites continues to grow, marketing strategies and advertising channels for online brands will become increasingly important, states the Magazine Publishers of America's 1996 Online Survey. When the MPA asked publishers to disclose their amount of marketing expenses versus total expenses in upcoming years, the association found that respondents planned on spending 25 to 30 percent of their online budget on marketing initiatives.
"The marketing budget will be split roughly equally until 1998 between advertising in the online medium, advertising in the associated or publisher's print brands and other advertising channels and marketing activities," according to the study.
By in large, more newspapers initially flocked to the infant World Wide Web than did magazines. According to University of Florida Professor David Carlson's figures, more than 19,000 newspapers existed online by 1996.
Not to say that the first e-newspapers emerged in the 1990s. Newspapers such as the Fort Worth Star's StarText utilized videotex systems as early as 1982, says Carlson, who teaches about the history of the online medium.
Online newspapers have even more of an advantage over their hard-copy parents than magazines do over theirs, though. Especially limited by space and time constraints, newsprint newspapers can go only as in depth as ad stacks permit and can produce news only as rapidly as the sun rises and sets. However, online the updating opportunities are limitless.
National Geographic Online
"Internet commerce is here, a reality suddenly and indisputably to be measured in the billions of dollars," writes Robert Hertzberg in a recent WEBWEEK article. He says that interestingly online commerce hasn't proven to be a major boon for manufacturers of "soft goods." "That was the early wisdom, and it seemed to make sense, since soft goods -- particularly information -- were something that could be distributed online."
However, Hertzberg says that Internet economy is following the U.S. economy's lead, primarily profitting off durable goods sales. "As we become an increasingly wired society, it makes sense that revenues from this same category would represent the largest share of goods sold online as well, even if it isn't proportional to what happens in the real world," he says.
A decrease in concerns about security partly has led to the boom. With ads geared to wisk consumers to transaction sites conveniently featured on Web mags, the article indicates that substantial ad revenue for publishers is becoming less right-around-the-corner and more right-now
"Seemingly out of nowhere, the World Wide Web, the fastest-growing part of the Internet, has exploded to the forefront of the news, business and popular culture," writes Ira Nathenson in an article for the University of Pittsburg. Speculation about the new medium can't help but abound. Among the grander predictions is that by 2000, more than 200 million computers will be linked to the Web. (In 1996, the number roughly was 40 million.)
The Magazine Publishers of America's 1996 Online Survey states that its surveyed respondents expected to be making more than $5 million annually from their online activities in 1998. "By 2000, publishers expect that figure to leap to more than $15," the MPA writes.
So, what does it take to work for an online magazine? If you are a photographer, you may need to learn video skills. Likewise, if you're a reporter, you may need to learn how to record speeches for sound bytes. Good writing skills will never go out of style, though, says publisher Jeff Weber.
"The cost printing encourages brevity, clarity and cogency in writing -- qualities that are distinctly missing for much of the prattle filling the Internet," the former Florida Magazine Association president writes in his newsletter column entitled, "Will Magazines Go the Way of Sailing Ships? -- Not Anytime Soon."
Should editors know how to check grammar and HTML code? It generally depends on whether an online magazine is designed in-house or by an outside agency. No doubt, though, editors, writers and photographers will all be working more on updates and breaking news coverage to keep Web content fresh.
"Revenue generation is the single most pressing issue facing magazine publishers in new media," states the Magazine Publishers of America's 1996 Online Survey. None of the surveyed publishers had yet to develop a "model that successfully blend(ed) numerous revenue streams to achieve profitability," according to the MPA.
Advertising is the most dominant source of revenue, producing 53 percent of the total. Online production services, provided to advertisers or customers by publishers, provides 22 percent of the total, the study states. "In order to grow the revenue side of their business, more than half of responding publishers have developed five or more revenue sources to support their online activities," the MPA wrote.
Online subscriptions make up a paltry percentage of the revenue of the Magazine Publishers of America's surveyed publishers. "Interestingly, the combination of subscription revenue and usage fees, both essentially fee-for-service pricing strategies, accounts for only six percent of total projected revenues," the 1996 Online Survey states. "Clearly, the online marketplace has yet to demonstrate tolerance for a usage-based pricing structure."
Endeavors such as the Gainesville Sun's Gator Sports site illustrate what kind of content Web surfers are willing to pay for. Gator Sports subscribers around the globe pay approximately $500 annually to get all the latest stats and stories about their favorite reptile teams. It is a way for them to feel as if they aren't so far away from their alma mater in Gainesville, Fla.
Safer encryption devices and real-time video clips are but a few advances that will, and have already, enhanced the online magazine industry. What will take online publications to the next level will be hardware innovations, though.
Professor David Carlson of the University of Florida often shows students his pocket-size computer. He explains that the future isn't so distant when the students themselves will be able to afford such hardware, as will people all over the world.
"A popular refrain from the sixties was that the 'Revolution would not be televised'....Instead it will be on the Net," sum up the four collaborating authors of "Information Access: A Cornerstone of Web Publishing."
Continuously refreshing who said what to whom, when, where and why seems to be a looming goal for online publications with large staffs. Features like sports stats and weather reports lend themselves to this type of attention.
Unlike print magazines which hang around readers' houses and inspire a second look from time to time, online magazines are out of site, out of mind. Unless they have features that can keep drawing readers back for more, of course.
Upgrading, not updating, might be a term to describe the phenomenon discussed in a Harvard University paper about "Innovations in the Newspaper Market and Experience with Web Initiatives." "Some newspapers try to add some services or pieces of information that are not to be found in the printed product," the piece states.
U.S. News Online
VRML and Web images
HyperText Markup Language is the coding used to create all Web magazines on the Internet. However, it's not the only language out there. Virtual Reality Modeling Language is a "language to describe explorable multiuser 3d spaces (or worlds) contained and distributed over the World Wide Web," explains Laura Lemay in her book, "Teach Yourself Web Publishing with HTML 3.2 in 14 Days."
In Macworld Online, an article addresses the in-your-face graphics, "VRML's evangelists have long preached that it will transform the Web by replacing static 2-D pages with navigable 3-D spaces. It hasn't happened--partly because VRML browsers tend to be flaky and hard to use, and partly because crafting 3-D spaces is a lot harder than knocking out HTML pages."
Web images can be inserted with VRML, however several clipart sites actually market and sell ready-to-use the pictures and drawings that are shaded to look more like actual objects.
Voices on the Internet
Another name for "file not found," Vincent Flanders, has yet another category description for x-files: "Damn College Kids!" Flanders, creator of "Vincent Flanders' Web Pages That Suck," gives the example of transient-type students who graduate and leave their Web sites disabled. "Given the dearth of valuable information on the net, it's very frustrating to find a useful page on a college server and then find it Missing in Action a few months later," he says.
Much like calling an old friend, only to learn he or she has moved without letting you know, getting a "file not found" message from what once was a favorite 'zine isn't fun. Publication creators are advised to leave a forwarding address, if not a link itself.
Your own 'zine
Is 'zine just a dopey shortcut for saying the m-word? Nope. 'Zines are distinct publications unto themselves. Online 'zines range in quality, just as their print brethren do. There are stapled-copier-paper Web equivalents as well as slick, four-color-'zine-quality sites.
More than 100 'zines are listed on Excite search engine's magazine index. Many focus on music, celebs and good, old-fashioned angst. Most are created by average citizens as a way to vent or simply express their passion on a specific topic.