The monthly magazine, which reaches 20 million women every month, is slated to target the online "Cosmo girl" beginning November 11.
Cosmo's online debut comes in the wake of the launch of Reader's Digest World, an online version of another giant print publication with more than 100 million readers. Magazines, like online newspapers, have yet to make a profit from advertising, but hope to gain some subscribers and visibility.
More important, the shift shows an increasing focus on delivering content to women online. A report published last month by Jupiter Communications revealed that women account for 37 percent of Internet users and have spent $368 million online this year alone. By the year 2000, the number of women on the Internet promises to reach 43.3 million, amounting to nearly 47 percent of all online users.
"Magazines are generating some subscriptions online, but it's not a huge boom," said Tom Palmer, founder of the The Electric Newsstand, a site that provides 3,000 links to magazines. Palmer said he doesn't expect the Web sites such as Cosmo girl to cannibalize print readership, because people always want magazines in their hands and online news hounds still are a relatively small group.
Some magazines, such as The New Yorker and Reader's Digest offer consumers a glimpse of their monthly magazines in print with subscription rates and information. Palmer says he encourages publishers to provide at least one free article on the site. "Internet users don't like to see a page full of advertisements, they want to see juicy stories."
Consumers will recognize the worth of online magazines once the good ones drive away the bad ones, according to Palmer. "People will begin paying for content once they realize they are getting quality information," he said.
For now, Palmer advises consumers to take advantage of free content because for the first time in history, "every newsstand on the corner is at your fingertips."