"Dead bride haunts husband and his new fiancee." "100-pound baby born in airport." "Boy wonder memorized the Bible at age 3."
Web surfers who are too embarrassed to read such outrageous tabloid tales while waiting in line at supermarkets can now get some of the dish discreetly on the Net.
The National Enquirer went online last October but said it is planning to unveil a larger site in late spring. Also today, Diskotech multimedia company launched Celebrity Ink, a tabloid spoof site whose headlines are hardly distinguishable from the real thing.
Tabloids haven't flooded the Web as have many other media, but the market is picking up for American Media, the veteran publisher of the Enquirer, Star, Soap Opera, and the Weekly World News. American Media used the Enquirer to test the waters and will relaunch the site in about 90 days with new features, more stories, and customized news, according to Joe Policy, vice president of corporate market services for American Media.
The company will also use its Web sites to increase revenue by driving Net surfers to supermarket racks. Weekly World News, which may be the next to land on the Web, is already receiving huge traffic on American Online, Policy said.
"The results with the Web site have been spectacular. We judge it in part by the numerous emails we get with story suggestions and comments," he said. "We are going to do a full-blown site with multimedia, archives, and photos; a National Enquirer mall where people could buy goodies; and we're looking at customized, tailored news for a subscription. For example, if you wanted to get just the scoop on O.J. Simpson, you could click on a pair of Bruno Magli shoes where you could only get O.J. stories."
Judging from online news and chat activity surrounding such high-profile stories, Policy may be on to something. Despite the fact that many people claim to snub the tabloids, the weekly circulation of the Enquirer is 2.5 million and readership is estimated at more than 12 million a week, according to Policy.
The free Enquirer site gets 1,000 hits a day and is updated every week. It doesn't include all the headlines but enough to hold over readers who don't buy the paper version. The site features video of celebrities, columns, and at least two top headlines.
"For us, we're able to grow an entire new generation of readers whose first exposure to the National Enquirer would be on the Net," Policy said. "We're going to make a substantial investment, and we believe it will pay off in new readers."
As for now, the Enquirer site has no advertising but will include ads with the relaunch. The Celebrity Ink site is soliciting ads for a flat rate of $500 per month, a confident request for a spoof site.
Although Celebrity Ink is dubbed as a parody, site creator Holly Franking states on her home page that she is also planning to get real celebrities to do tabloid stories with video clips. For now, the site contains horoscopes and fictional features with live audio and video.
"[The spoof site] is a good way to satirize popular culture. We also want to use the site to drive the sales of our multimedia books on CD," Franking said today. "We're not going to compete the National Enquirer, but we do want to get celebrities to do phony stories with us."