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Changes coming to Media Central

Daily news site Media Central, which has struggled to make a buck, will be revamped following an internal shakeup, its new publisher says.

Daily news site Media Central, which, like many Net properties, has struggled to make a buck, soon will be revamped following an internal shakeup, its new publisher said today.

The changes will trickle down from the recent buyout of Media Central's publisher, Cowles, which also produced the media industry site Simbanet. On Monday, sources close the company, say some employees who ran Media Central are expected to leave and take severance packages. In the next few months, the site will be redesigned, adding more daily content about TV, radio, online, and print companies.

Despite Cowles' failed attempt to charge readers $99, $149, and $249 for a yearly subscription to Media Central's Media Daily feature, the new publisher said the site will not be fee-based.

In late March, Primedia Incorporated, which publishes Seventeen, Soap Opera Digest, and Modern Bride print magazines, acquired two of Cowles' media divisions for $200 million. Primedia's Intertec, a Kansas-based trade magazine publisher for numerous industries, will now integrate Cowles' magazines and online offerings into its business.

The absorption of Cowles' Media Central by a $1.4 billion company means that its mediocre online performance--about 750,000 page views per month--will no longer fly.

"We are going to make some changes to Media Central, but we are not shutting it down," said Eric Vianello, head of New Media for Intertec. "We do have an existing new media department and we're going to try to absorb some of Media Central's functions."

Vianello wouldn't comment on the elimination of positions, but said Intertec next week will combine some of its new media resources with those of Cowles. Then executives will try to map out Media Central's future to make it a viable and profitable Internet venture.

"We need to better define who our target audience is to deliver daily news to these folks and try to save them time," Vianello added. "But we're not going to charge a subscription fee--that was tested before we took over the company."

Primedia has been building up its Net presence, and the Cowles acquisition represents yet another brick in its e-commerce house.

Earlier this month, the company established Primedia Ventures, a fund to invest in Net start-ups and Web technology. The first project Primedia Ventures is tackling is to build and online wedding gift registry.