Magazine article Information Today

People Magazine Joins Online Ranks

Magazine article Information Today

People Magazine Joins Online Ranks

Article excerpt

I can't imagine why it took so long. I just don't understand what the holdup was for People magazine, America's trendiest soft-core tabloid, to go online. How embarrassing for People to be so far behind the curve. The New York Times, the Voice of the Establishment, was online first. Even U.S. News World Report was online first ... U.S. News! ... which is read mainly by men who still wear vests (though it is actually loosening up--over the past few years they have been doing cover stories on--gasp!--social issues).

But at last People is part of cyberspace, with an electronic version on Compuserve. The online edition is typical of the magazine itself: trendy, but not too far out (this isn't WIRED, after all). In other words, a typical electronic magazine, with the strengths and weaknesses of the genre: an uneasy mixture of text, graphics, and communications features.

Online = Print

Editorially, People online is nearly the same as People in print: plenty of gossipy, mildly scandalous articles on celebrities, at least one heart-rending true-life story about an average person (bound to end up as a made-for-TV movie), and the perky mini-reviews. Content-wise, there are no surprises. There are no articles online that didn't make it into the print publication (I guess People doesn't have any articles that don't make it into the magazine). There are a few small features that are only online. People Daily has a half-dozen celebrity gossip notes updated each day. In the Reporter's Notebook, People writers get a chance to discuss their subjects in greater depth than in the magazine itself. A Cyberchat column covers celebs' online activities.

People has content from the two current issues online. Retrospective searching is provided by a gateway to Magazine Database Plus, which is CompuServe's version of Magazine/ASAP, Information Access Company's full-text database for general magazines. Articles from People from 1986 can be searched by descriptor, full text, or date.

People Goes Multimedia

People online may not offer much extra text, but there are a lot of fancy graphics and multimedia. As with other online magazines, memory-hogging image and media files are an imperfect fit with current online technology. Selected photos from the magazine can be downloaded, if downloading ephemeral photos from People magazine is what you want to do with your life.

Better stuff is found in People's supplementary image/multimedia sections. A special media library contains current music videos, music CD cuts, and other video and audio clips including--as People is very fond of announcing--the infamous "Squidgy" tape, where Di makes mushy. Each month there is an exhibit of photos from a People photographer. Finally, there are image, sound, and video files scattered throughout the People Forum libraries.

It's a nice batch of current multimedia, but when you try to get them into your computer, complications arise. To make it practical, you need a high-speed (9600 at least) modem and phone line, and appropriate image handling software--in other words, a configuration that many people don't have.

Each week's new People is loaded, Friday evening at 11:00 PM. Mail subscribers receive their paper copies on Saturday. If you wanted to download everything from the new online People, the paper edition would probably get there first. …

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