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Martha Stewart to spruce up Web

Martha Stewart, the happy homemaker of the 1990s, discloses in her magazine's latest edition that she is launching a Web site September 8.

Martha Stewart, the happy homemaker of the 1990s, discloses in her magazine's latest edition that she is launching a Web site September 8.

That's not all. The site, dubbed "Marthastewart.com," is the initial phase of a much bigger Internet service, which ultimately will be called "askMartha," she says, hinting that it will include interactive features.

The offering will include a full-fledged e-commerce site for selling gardening and kitchen products, as well as categories promoting the television show, a "meeting place" for bulletin board postings, and information about Stewart herself and her company, according to Michael Chaney, executive vice president of US Interactive, which is working on Marthastewart.com.

This is serious business, not just another lesson in "Roast Chicken 101" or "Growing Salvias," the latest features in her magazine. It is the latest attempt of a print media property trying to leverage its brand on the Web. On the same day, Stewart also is launching a new daily television program, Martha Stewart Living Weekdays.

Stewart, a no-nonsense businesswoman, makes no bones about her cross-promotion strategy. "The Web site will make it even better, offering easy access on a daily basis to the vital information in every [TV] show--every recipe, all the instructions, the sources, the visuals, and much more that will enable you, the viewer and the user, to any of the how-tos at home, right away," Stewart says in a letter to readers of Martha Stewart Living.

The Web site receives technical assistance from Microsoft and US Interactive, Stewart adds.

As for "askMartha," she notes: "We will continue to develop 'askMartha' slowly so that it works efficiently and easily and brings you the information you need and want."

There already seems to be some interest in Stewart's presence on the Web--both pro and con. Some unauthorized Web sites already are posted. One asks: Martha Stewart: Domestic Doyenne or Goddess of Greed? Another lists early warning signs of "Martha Stewart Disease." One sign: "You float candles in the punch bowl at parties." Another is called Lair of the Anti-Martha: Fun with that Maxed-Out American Express Card!