Media: Sisters Doing It on the Web ; Bored by Formulaic and Uncritical Glossies, Women Are Turning to Online Magazines for Intelligent Coverage of Sex, Celebrities - and Saddam, Says Mira Katbamna

Article excerpt

Not so long ago, the internet was a testosterone-fuelled world, peopled by young men who knew a lot about JavaScript and the characters of Star Trek. Creating a website meant either entering a nether world of coding and html, or paying an extortionate fee to get someone else to do it. Not anymore. The rise of the weblog and web publishing packages has dramatically changed that landscape, and with women making up 41.45 per cent of the total internet audience (Nielsen May 2004), the sisters are doing it for themselves.

Women have started using the internet to publish women's "magazines" because they say that the traditional glossy magazine fare of celebrity, shoes, sex and self-help just isn't what they want to read. It's not that they don't love celebrities, shoes or sex - it's just that the formulaic, uncritical presentation gets a bit wearing, and the self-help makes them feel worse.

Anne-Marie Payne, founder of www.ampnet.co.uk, says that articles featuring the "Sex Secrets of Easily Orgasmic Women" no longer hit her metaphorical spot. "I've always been addicted to glossy magazines, but at some point you realise that what's out there is never going to satisfy your needs. It's all about `you can be like this', whereas Amp aims to reflect the reality of our experiences right now." With that mission in mind, Amp runs features about prominent rock'n'roll women, alternatives to tampons and, pre- Glastonbury, how to "Pee like A Geezer, not a Geyser".

Described as "edgy" "alternative" and "a bit Hoxton" by some, Payne admits that her magazine is not for everyone, and that she has given up on publishing a "proper" magazine. But while she is happy for Amp to remain a cult read, the trend against aspiration is also being taken up by women with a slightly more conventional vision.

The founder and editor of www.bintmagazine.com, Lebby Eyres, has excellent mainstream credentials. Currently a freelance editor, Eyres has written for numerous celebrity and style magazines, and she's not pulling her punches. "The biggest lie about women's magazines is that they are something that women buy to pamper themselves. In reality all they do is make you feel inadequate about your life - be thinner, wear more expensive clothes, have more sex. It's the constant self-improvement thing that is so depressing."

She thinks the Bint reader is a woman who loves pleasure in all its many forms - be it booze, food, books, sauciness or shopping. The site is irreverent and wry, but certainly does not shy away from discussion of celebrities, sex or the fact that Touche clat concealer is every woman's best friend. She says: "From the beginning we set out to produce a magazine where intelligence was assumed, but I don't think we are dramatically avant garde."

Features range from how to tell a sackmate from a soulmate, why Tim Henman will never win Wimbledon, to a series on how to be mediocre - mixed in with comment on war in Iraq and Hillary Clinton from a female point of view. "Our readers read newspapers, watch the news, read style magazines. But there is still a part of us that wants to read about, and empathise with, other women. I don't think we are beating people round the head with our `message' at Bint. We're working out a new way of talking to women that doesn't revolve around telling them they aren't good enough. …