Oh, what a tangled Web they must unweave The internet magazine market is a crowded one where there have been several recent launches, but the attraction for publishers is not obvious from a cursory glance at the ABC figures. Many established magazines lost readers in the last audit, although publishers argue this was inevitable because more titles entered the market, and they point to overall year on year increase of 21.3%. According to the latest ABC audit, Haymarket's the net' is the biggest selling monthly with an overall circulation of 52,600. Aimed primarily at men between 30 and 40 years old, the magazine covers mobile communications in addition to the internet. Like several rivals, the net' lost more than 10% of its ABC in the last period, but editor Robert Jeffery says this was expected. "The market has shifted rapidly in a short space of time. Inevitably the high consumer take-up of the internet in the late 90s created an unnaturally large market. What we have seen is the market adjusting to its natural levels." However, Geoff Harris, internet managing director at Paragon, which publishes three internet magazines, offers other reasons: "As people get comfortable with internet technology, it's conceivable that they don't feel the need to keep buying magazines about it. What's more, the internet gets a lot of coverage in the mass media, and a lot of keen internet users are women who don't tend to buy computer magazines." But the established titles are fighting back. For example, the net' recently had a major redesign and editor Jeffery says: "The sales figures to date suggests this has been well received and means we'll be in a position to strengthen our market share of the monthly magazine sector." The net' is unusual in this sector in featuring celebrities on the cover. "Having a famous person on the cover reflects the fact that we aren't a dull, technical magazine, like many of our rivals, but a magazine with something for everyone," says Jeffery, pointing out that retailers will sell more copies if his covers can be seen. Such differentiation is important in a crowded market, as Future publishing understands. Its .net magazine is the largest selling monthly internet title through the newstrade, at 39,273, yet it flouts the conventional A4 format, being slightly shorter and wider. Publishing director John Weir says the design fits the individuality of the title, which focuses on practical tutorial advice: ".net is aimed at experienced internet users and therefore is competing with relatively few titles," he says. .net also dropped more than 10% of its ABC last period, and again Weir attributes this to market conditions. Future Publishing's Business 2.0 was one of a few titles which held circulation in the last audit, ensuring Future had three of the sector's top five places overall. However, the title recently closed after the sale of the global brand, leaving Internet Advisor as Future's no 2 internet title with a news stand circulation of 34,553 ­ just ahead of Emap's Internet Magazine. But while Internet Advisor fell heavily (22.3%), Internet Magazine, with the weight of Emap behind it, bucked the downward trend by increasing sales 0.5% year on year to gain a news stand figure of 30,935 for the last period. While Emap's Internet Magazine takes the perfect-bound, premium priced, monthly approach with covermounted CDs, IPC launched into the sector with a different tactic ­ the saddle-stitched, cut-price fortnightly WebUser. The title had an above the line launch spend of £1m and promotional activity in Tesco, Sainsbury, Asda, Morrisons, TM Retail and WHS. Although too new to be ABC audited, WebUser has a publisher's statement of 92,028 copies per issue. Assistant publisher Fiona Mercer says: "Since launch we have grown the market by 130% and own 56% of that market. WebUser was launched into what we perceived as a gap in the market ­ a magazine that focused on the end usage of the internet. Previously what had been on offer were either beginner titles or techy titles. Post launch we have seen the face of the market change, with several re-launches and launches, titles have become more consumer focused, so a fair assessment would be that it is a ferociously competitive market at the moment." WebUser's 99p price point has certainly put the pressure on its rivals. As Paragon's Harris says: "Low-priced launches like WebUser have made it tough for longer-established magazines like ours with a higher cover price." Going directly up against WebUser on cover price, if not frequency, is VNU's recently launched monthly, Webactive. Priced 75p Webactive is a brand extension of Computeractive magazine (readers can purchase Computeractive and Webactive together for £2). Jonathan Hardy, VNU group circulation manager explains: "We felt that Webactive is exactly what was needed in the market: a stand-alone magazine that gives internet advice and guidance at a reasonable price and monthly frequency. The low priced monthly' is a completely different formula to other internet magazines." Again, while too new for an ABC, Hardy says: "The latest figures for the launch issue put it among the top three sellers on the UK news stands in this market." VNU also publishes Computeractive WebGuide ­ again, a brand extension of Computeractive, this quarterly reviews internet sites and has a news stand ABC of 51,012. But with so many entrants into the sector, are the smaller publishers in danger of being squeezed out? Paragon's Geoff Harris doesn't think so. He says: "There are still niche areas to be exploited, for example: the beginners end, guides to top internet software and web site creation." Consequently, Paragon publishes Internet Made Easy ­ "the only step by step guide for beginners" ­ Web Pages Made Easy and Practical Internet. Like many publishers in this sector, Paragon uses covermounting as a marketing strategy: Kevin Petley, circulation marketing director, says: "Covermounts are still important considering the threat posed by cheaper, sub-£1 rivals. We try to add genuine value by putting fully working commercial programs on all our discs, for instance, rather than just trials and demos." Paragon also covermounts items. And Fiona Butler, marketing manager at Future, says that while its promotions have "focused on improving our penetration and visibility at the UK news stand, concentrated at grocery and high street outlets", covermounted CDs remain "an integral part of the marketing strategy for our internet titles and are essential to copy sales. This is particularly true for .net magazine." However, Haymarket's Jeffery warns: "CDs can be a slippery slope with everyone trying to up the ante all the time. One can quickly find oneself in a position where the consumer is buying for the gift rather than the magazine." Haymarket opts for a mixed marketing approach, the most popular being paid for trade promotions. However, Jeffery says: "We are exploring areas where promotions are done through a joint exercise with the retailer where we might organise a competition in return for promotional space." With its portfolio of computer titles, VNU has an ideal marketing platform for Webactive. The company also opts for online marketing and retail/pos activity. "In terms of budget allocation we will focus on retail marketing," says Hardy. So are internet titles here to stay? Paragon's Petley thinks so ­ "but not in their present form". He says: "People will want magazines that help them find the best content amid all the dross or use the Net to their advantage. The challenge for publishers will be trying to distil the best bits of the Web into a magazine without publishing a boring directory of thousands of site addresses." the net Frontline £2.75 M Latest news stand ABC 31,445 .net Seymour £4.49 M Latest news stand ABC 39,273 Web User Marketforce £99p F Latest news stand ABC n/a Internet Magazine Frontline £3.50 M Latest news stand ABC 30,935 Internet Advisor Seymour £3.49 M Latest news stand ABC 34,553 Cre@te Online Seymour £5 M Latest news stand ABC 12,780 It's on the Net Seymour £2.95 M Latest news stand ABC n/a Web Pages Made Easy Seymour £3.99 M Latest news stand ABC n/a Internet Made Easy Seymour £2.50 M Latest news stand ABC 23,485 Practical Internet Seymour £3.99 M Latest news stand ABC 13,810 Webactive VNU 75p M Latest news stand ABC n/a Computeractive Web Guide VNU £4.99 Quarterly Latest news stand ABC 51,012 {{CTN }}