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CYBERCULTURE

Internet Magazine Joins Growing Stack of Rivals

Publishing: Launching today, the Industry Standard hopes to live up to its name.

April 27, 1998|GREG MILLER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SAN FRANCISCO — One of the ironies of the computer age is that the industry that has always threatened to make paper obsolete has spawned more pulp-based publications than almost any other sector of the economy.

Silicon Valley is buried under an avalanche of newsletters, trade publications and high-tech magazines. And it's about to get another with today's launch of a weekly magazine called the Industry Standard.

Backed by International Data Group, one of the biggest publishing firms in computing, and run by one of the founding editors of Wired magazine, it aims to establish itself as "the newsmagazine of the Internet economy."

Skeptics wonder whether there's need for a new voice in this cacophony of coverage. But executives at the San Francisco-based publication say their magazine will set itself apart by providing more streamlined technology news and bringing a unique focus to coverage of the Net as an economic force.

"Everybody already has 60 magazines on their desk, but most don't read them," said John Battelle, the 32-year-old publisher of the Industry Standard. "So yes, this is adding one more to the pile. But my feeling is, read this one, and you'll feel less guilty about ignoring the others."

Still, given that up to 85% of all start-up magazines fold within a few years, the challenges the Industry Standard faces are daunting.

One way the magazine hopes to differentiate itself is by publishing weekly, searching for what Battelle calls a "sweet spot" between the mainstream daily business press and monthly technology magazines such as the Red Herring and Upside.

But getting noticed could be tough in a market saturated with technology coverage. In the last few years, long-standing computer trade publications have been joined by dozens of online journals, and mainstream papers and magazines have expanded their coverage of Silicon Valley.

Even before its first issue, the Industry Standard has been trading elbows with rivals. The magazine hired two former members of Upside's sales department, but lost bidding wars for two reporters, said Upside Editor Richard Brandt.

"The number of publications covering technology has grown enormously," Brandt said. "At some point, there's got to be a shakeout."

Battelle said the Industry Standard, like most new magazines, isn't expected to turn a profit for several years, but one goal is to have 70,000 subscribers by the end of its first year.

The first issue had a printing of 115,000, which included promotional copies for executives, analysts and other computer professionals--the magazine's target audience.

The magazine's top editor is Jonathan Weber, formerly a technology editor at The Times. He leads an editorial staff of about 22 people, plus several notable columnists, including Carl Steadman, co-founder of the irreverent suck.com Web site.

Sustaining a weekly pace could be grueling, especially considering that the Industry Standard's editorial staff is not much larger than those of competing magazines that publish only once a month.

Battelle knows the travails of launching a magazine. At Wired, he helped create one of the most influential publications of the 1990s, but also witnessed its two failed attempts at public stock offerings, and he was forced to shutter a British edition he had spent six months building.

Launching another magazine "is not a piece of cake," he said. "But we're trying to be something that hasn't existed before. And I think we've pulled it off."

Greg Miller can be reached via e-mail at greg.miller@latimes.com

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