The word 'dot.com' may have entered the national lexicon, but
examples of people who are actually making money or improving their
business via the internet are as rare as a sector without a Virgin
company dedicated to it.
However, the sheer breadth of the e-business field is not stopping
publications seeking to cash in on the desire for knowledge.
Computing, VNU's IT flagbearer, this week unveiled a new look with a
pledge to maximise its e-business coverage.
Less than a month ago, buoyed by the success of new economy title The
Industry Standard in the US (with a circulation of 200,000), publisher
Standard Media International launched a European version based in
There is no evidence of a stand-off, however. For all its new emphasis,
Computing still sees Reed Business Information's Computer Weekly - a
technology title - as its sworn enemy.
By a similar token, it is unlikely that the average IT professional is
going to rely solely on The Industry Standard -which in turn sees itself
as a sort of Economist for the digital economy.
VNU looked at producing its own monthly e-business title before
rejecting the idea on the grounds that the numbers did not add up. And
since acquiring Ziff Davis' European magazines in July, the publisher
also has IT Week, whose future may yet be in jeopardy given Computing's
change of direction.
A variety of publications - from Crimson Publishing's monthly e.BUSINESS
to Centaur Communications' weekly New Media Age - also cover similar
ground, albeit intermittently in some cases. But the existence of a
purely e-business readership on any scale is still unproven.
Paul Smith, director at IT and telecoms consultancy Kaizo, thinks this
could work, to some extent, in magazines' favour.
'It is still such an early market that education is an important thing,'
he said. In addition to talking to their peers and visiting shows and
exhibitions, those looking to exploit e-business will certainly read
magazines for information.
But Smith is also right when he says that the real trick for titles will
be getting successful practitioners to the stage where they are
comfortable talking about it in print.
Writing about e-business is easy and, for a while at least, useful. But
at some point magazines will have to come up with tangible goods to keep
Publisher: VNU Business Publishing
Circulation: 135,000 (ABC) weekly
'We don't really have a typical reader, but they are mainly senior IT
professionals, predominantly male in their 30s to 40s. E-business is
becoming increasingly important to our readers, who are in turn becoming
increasingly important to the industry. Now it's about making e-business
profitable - people have had two years of hype.
'They are still finding their way in e-business. It's a bit like teenage
sex -fewer people are actually doing it than you think. But the time for
shouting big blanket messages is over; now they want to know what's
going on and we are the ideal frequency to keep them up to date and
informed. We can identify products, techniques and business models which
can provide our readers with an advantage. We are showing them what's
out there and what to beware of, warning them against going down
purchasing blind alleys. But readers are a heterogeneous bunch: some
like risks, some don't.
'We are organising e-business news better with signposting, and
increasing the volume of coverage. We have been proactive in this area;
we have been writing about e-business for three years but perhaps we
didn't shout about it enough. IT Week (also owned by VNU) goes into
greater technical detail. We look more at the business side than they
do, and we have a broader remit. We consider Computer Weekly to be our
The monthly e-business market is quite crowded.
'Perhaps people will stop thinking about 'e-business' in the future -
the IT business and commercial strategies of companies will merge
It is questionable whether e-business will exist as a standalone - we
resisted the temptation, for example, to rename Computing
'There are a number of good PR agencies out there, but the worst things
we get are PROs dressing mutton up as lamb, claiming that a ten-year-old
product is new or people ringing us up to say: 'We sent you a press
release and are you going to use it?'. The best thing to do is send
releases by e-mail and we'll contact you. We find useful the invitations
to lunches, briefings and meetings with senior people whose views are of
interest to the reader.'
THE INDUSTRY STANDARD EUROPE
Publisher: Standard Media International
Circulation: 120,000 (print run) weekly
'We're a business magazine covering the social and economic effects of
the development of a technology sector. Our typical reader in the US is
anyone engaged in using the internet in some important and strategic
way, rather than just using it to send e-mails to their family; someone
who works in a technology field, or in traditional companies, trying to
grasp what the internet means for business. Financing of internet
companies is also important.
'The same will be true of the European edition, allowing for the fact
that there are differences in the markets. The wireless market here (for
example, internet access via WAP phones) is significantly more important
than the US, where internet access is largely synonymous with computer
access, dialling in from home or workplace on a PC. Also, there is the
potential for cable access.
'The readership is largely male, although we hope to build the female
part. For example, we have a significant readership in advertising,
marketing and PR, and those fields tend to be more populated by women.
We had a feature on so-called 'women's' sites, as community sites are a
big part of what the internet business has become, even though most of
them aren't profitable.
'But a lot of the people involved in the industries we write about are
men in their late 20s to early 40s. We try to reach insiders on a very
high level, such as CEOs, and present information in a way that makes it
appealing and accessible. We are very focused on providing original
statistics and data. We also try to cover the rethinking of traditional
categories: for example, the effects of the new economy on the concept
of the city, or the political implications of the internet. There hasn't
really been a magazine like this: people who pick it up will find news
of the sector in a useful and unique context.
'As a weekly there is a much larger emphasis on news; others have to
take a more timeless, abstract approach. We have six reporters in
London, three on the continent and access to the Standard's US
journalists. We also use our web site to break news.'