Web browsers get their fill of news and views in electronic magazines Computers: Frequently updated, these new e-zines can take full advantage of sound and video multimedia gewgaws that print magazines cannot reproduce.


June 09, 1996|By Michael Saunders | Michael Saunders,BOSTON GLOBE

It's no stretch to conclude that the millions of new homesteaders on the World Wide Web are going to want something to read. Like stray dogs and bad reputations, words tend to follow people.

Plenty of print magazines have cast their digital counterparts into the electronic ether. It's a tactic that makes marketing departments salivate, this double-dipping into the pool of current and potential subscribers. Time, Newsweek and scads of other mass-market glossies have committed considerable resources to the Internet.

While those products can be found on most newsstands, true electronic magazines (e-zines) live only on the Internet or on CD-ROM.

The best e-zines offer deep content and take full advantage of the sound and video multimedia gewgaws that print magazines can't reproduce.

Suck -- its motto: "a fish, a barrel and a smoking gun" -- is one of the best e-zines, consistently approaching the too-witty-for-its-own-good elan of Spy of a decade ago.

This e-zine (http: www.suck. com) is an unrepentantly sarcastic tour guide to the best and worst of what lurks in the web's side streets and alleys. It's the creation of two former HotWired staffers who developed something so cool they were bought out by their former boss. Now, with a fat corporate care package to hire new staffers, the Suck minions forage for choice bits of arcana, then weave them into a coherent slice of 'net life.

The home page is updated daily, with added graphics and links to supplement the e-zine's victims du jour. Five other features are updated weekly, one each day. The main chunk of the June 3 issue excoriated the new breed of web marketing specialists who see the World Wide Web as an untapped pool of suckers.

"They ride into town, pitch a tent, and fill it up with hard-luck country folk at $2 a head. They sell 'em big words and the promise of a better place. Then, after a night of miracles and a whole lot of hallelujahs, they pack up the crutches and slip out of town at dawn, leaving someone's daughter pregnant and everyone else swindled."

Netscape, the top web browser, gets a tweaking for its Messianic quest for market superiority.

It won't be long until the Suck-sters, as they like to call themselves, concoct a deliciously nasty name for Netscape co-founder and barefoot billionaire Marc Andriessen, perhaps something akin to Spy's "short-fingered vulgarian" tag for businessman Donald Trump.

A few words on Word

We always wish there were more to Word (http: //www.word. com), a combination of eclectic literary pursuits and sheer silliness.

Harry Goldstein's article on the medicinal uses of marijuana is mated to eye-catching typography and artwork arranged in a linear format that evokes book reading. (Check back issues for the excellent excerpt from "Galatea 2.2" by Richard Powers.)

With the web's new wealth of information a few mouse clicks away, it might be easy to forget the frightening possibilities of too much information.

For a reminder, Word offers Boston artist Julia Scher performing two spoken-word pieces, "Don't Worry" and "Information America." Scher's works are subtly chilling companion pieces to a well-executed story by Carolina Croon and Jill Mathias.

The pair examine the rush by Baltimore and other cities to put video cameras in public places, which are used to watch out for criminals -- and by default -- to watch over us.

Feed on Slate

Feed, a quarterly updated weekly (something only possible on-line), has better manners than Suck but can still dish dirt with vigor.

The latest edition (http: //www. feedmag.com) features a solid analysis of the much-hyped e-zine Slate, "an interactive magazine of politics and culture" scheduled to debut later this month.

No one, especially editor Michael Kinsley, is sure whether Slate will outclass the competition despite having a sugar daddy with deep pockets in corporate sponsor Microsoft.

Feed's take, echoed by others in the industry, is that Slate is not long for the tank -- critically, if not financially -- if Kinsley hasn't thoroughly embraced the 'net as a viable print alternative.

Addicted to Noise

The pioneering Addicted to Noise (http: //www.addict.com) was one of the first e-zines to focus on new music and pop culture. It was good right out of the box more than a year ago, stuffed with cogent rock-crit-lit from heavyweight columnists such as Greil Marcus and Dave Marsh.

The most recent issue features Marsh's appropriately high-volume rant against the campaign to smash gangsta rap and some forms of hard rock. Performer profiles, such as an interview with Patti Smith, are almost always timely or several months ahead of the curve.

With its success, ATN became bloated with advertising. New staff was hired and the content expanded, but its new design makes ATN look like a sumo champion waddling around in a tailored suit.

Pub Date: 6/09/96

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