Some relationships you can just about live with. When Andy married Fergie there were those who thought they were an odd match, saying she was too brash to fit in with the other royals, and in the event they were proved right. But most of us accepted the idea, if we cared particularly, with equanimity.
There are some even stranger couplings. Last year's Conservative Party leadership elections raised more than a few eyebrows when John Redwood suddenly became best of buddies with Ken Clarke, arguably undermining the credibility of both. The teaming up of right and left looked contrived and turned out to be the best present the pair could have given to Just William.
Other alliances are just starting to look peculiar. Take the union of the printed media and the Web. Outside the computer press - which can safely assume its readers are more or less technically literate, have access to the internet and are sympathetic to the notion of daily, real-time updates - you might have thought there was room for some anxiety over how IT is going to squeeze out paper sales.
Not so. It seems there are countless publications going online in the belief that they will extend their coverage by doing so. They aren't small either - GQ, FHM, Loaded, Esquire, Empire, and most recently, Private Eye.
Anyone with slow graphics on their system can pretty much forget logging on to any of the fashion publications; Vogue's home page is useless unless you have frames on your browser and Vanity Fair's subscriptions link has a logo and five covers. Dealers should be able to offload a few fast modems on the strength of that.
The shape of the online publication depends on the resources a publisher wants to throw at it, which depends largely on how responsive publishers believe their potential readers to be. The publishers and editors tend to see the online presence as an advertisement for the magazine rather than a challenge to the printed media.
Ian Nathan, editor of movie magazine Empire, believes the site (www.erak.com/empire) attracts people to the magazine rather than replaces it. 'There's a difference between having and holding a magazine that's got some lovely photos on glossy paper,' he says. 'The Web can't compete at that level.' What the Web is able to do is keep up to date daily.
And, of course, it would be vulgar but true to mention that in selling adverts off the Website, publishers can generate income as well.
Most editors see their hard copy magazine as the main breadwinner at the moment and they are right. But as more people become accustomed to logging on rather than buying a paper, that may well change.
In spite of assurances of quality, commitment and whatever else you could want from the people touting the sites about, at least in the men's market, you can't help but conclude that some pretty basic stuff is driving some of the sites forward.
Logging on to the Loaded site at IPC, or UpLoaded as it is subtitled, the first thing to hit you is the speed at which it loads. It's technically slick. The second is that women have breasts. No, really they do. Loaded, FHM seem to use their sites purely as a come-on, with endless pictures of unclothed females amid the laddish chit-chat. You can't help but think the readers aren't looking at the written copy.
And the pages don't always work. Not having a telephone number, PC Dealer clicked on the email link to a well-known men's interest magazines, and got the 'message undeliverable' bounceback that is becoming the scourge of too many new systems.
The runaway magazine success on the internet is Playboy, and don't believe anyone who says 'but I read it for the articles'. The Playboy phenomenon is interesting because it appears to have taken off as a full-blown Cyber offshoot rather than an addendum to the magazine.
The site began in 1994 and soon became one of the most visited on the internet. Seven months ago it set up the CyberClub against a backdrop of falling revenue from the magazine. By January this year, the number of visitors had grown so large that Playboy Enterprises decided to hive off the online magazine as a separate division.
Chief executive Christine Hefner said: 'While new media will continue to be closely connected to publishing in terms of its editorial attitude and quality, we plan to leverage the assets of the entertainment group via pay-per-visit, subscription revenue and of our catalogue and product marketing groups via e-commerce.'
They don't write soundbytes like that any more. Translated it means a separate division for online stuff, e-commerce and a new lease of life for an old business model. The CyberClub has 22,000 subscribers, but Hefner remains adamant that Playboy on paper must remain as it is.
'It is important that we remain attentive to the value of our publishing business and, particularly, of Playboy magazine, which plays a vital role in driving the global image and recognition of our company,' Hefner says in a company statement.
In October last year, the site generated 4.3 million hits, which totalled a look at 40.4 million pages. Those cynics wondering whether anyone will see an advert on the Net, take heed.
The sites themselves represent genuine opportunities for consultants and Web designers. The cost can rise according to how much has to go on the site, but the margins are worth having. Tim Carrington, managing director of NoHo Digital, a London-based consultancy that has just revamped Private Eye's site, comments that in taking on a Web presence and aiming to go fully multimedia, the client needs deep pockets.
Microsoft, no stranger to litigation, has allowed the Eye into its Web space with games, cartoons, sounds and other silly stuff on http://msn.co.uk.
The Eye's previous Web presence, on Cix, had been static to say the least, and NoHo has made the new version considerably more interactive than its predecessor.
NoHo's editorial director Tim Wright sees it as a separate venture to the paper product. 'You don't see the whole issue online,' he says. 'It is expanding the envelope of the Private Eye concept,' he adds.
The Eye has its own special problems, however, as Carrington explains.
Microsoft insisted that all its partners should be insured. 'We looked at the insurance premiums for working with Private Eye and nearly thought again,' he says.
Nathan also sees the structure of the Website as being quite distinct from the paper entity. 'The way our Website is pitched is that it is much more bitty and small. It is designed for snacking,' he says. 'On paper we can go into more depth and write longer articles.' Readers of magazines, of course, aren't paying for every minute spent reading an article, as many site visitors will be doing.
Private Eye editor Ian Hislop, a confessed internet addict 'for the last five minutes', is equally comfortable with the idea of separating the Web and paper products. 'I don't think the people who log on will be the same people who buy the magazine,' he says.
The readership of the standard magazine is not going to fall, then? 'If I thought that was going to happen I wouldn't be doing it,' he replies, sensibly enough.
So will there be advertising on the site? 'No,' he responds emphatically.
But Oliver Roll, group marketing manager for MSN, chips in with an equally emphatic 'yes'. 'Yes, there will be,' amends Hislop, although he does worry that putting ads on the internet might irritate people and stop them from logging on.
Hislop has to go, Sky wants to talk to him. 'Oh good, I hope they'll ask me about working with a power-crazed media megalomaniac,' he says. Earlier he was asked about Microsoft's reaction to off-colour gags on MSN, and he replies: 'If Bill Gates can take a custard pie in the face, he can take the word "knob" a few times on the Microsoft Network.'
One insider is already confiding that this is one alliance that he can see lasting 'about a fortnight'.
Well, this certainly will be an entertaining one to watch.
COST OF COPYRIGHT
Most resellers are familiar with the cost of setting up a bog-standard, Website with links. Most also know that interactive sites cost more.
But going online with a publication can cost more than anyone would imagine because of copyright.
Until recently, a freelance journalist's standard terms covered what is called First Serial British Rights (FSBR). This meant a publication could print a commissioned piece once, after which the rights reverted to the journalist.
The emergence of the internet has meant that people need the right to re-publish material. Publishers have found ways round this difficulty: increased payments; a new agreement; and the old 'oversight' trick. What?
Didn't we pay you for that? Sorry guv, must have been some mistake.
Private Eye's site gets round this by using a minimum of material from the magazine. But that doesn't mean it's cheap. It uses voice extensively and many of its contributors have Equity rather than NUJ cards. But anyone who thinks an all-rights buyout for a Harry Enfield reading comes cheap can go straight to the bottom of the class right now.
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