What magazines on CD-Rom have to offer -- ''Blender,'' ''Go Digital,'' ''Trouble & Attitude,'' and ''Launch'' are examined

By Chris Nashawaty
Updated July 28, 1995 at 04:00 AM EDT
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What magazines on CD-Rom have to offer

There are plenty of technology freaks who will tell you that glossy-paper magazines are headed for extinction. Those same digital loyalists will prattle on about how a five-inch CD-ROM can hold the equivalent of 250,000 pages of text as well as photos, video and sound clips, and how one day, instead of skimming a magazine at the dentist’s, you’ll interact with it. Ironically, when the first general-interest CD-ROM magazines arrived a year ago, they were pretty darn boring and not very interactive. A handful of fresh titles has changed all that. And though they may not have the publishing industry committing paper-cut hara-kiri, they could be staples of the future.

Many of the digizines — popping up at, yes, newsstands and bookstores — position themselves as young, hipster diversions mostly aimed at the Details and Spin crowd. They feature splashy profiles of alternative bands and offbeat celebrities, advice columns, videogames, and, since so many CD-ROM users are men, footage of scantily clad models. The best of the new periodicals is the bimonthly Blender, which manages to be smart, funny, and packed with colorful, frenzied graphics and video. Issue No. 3, now out, includes a cover story on the ”7 Deadly Sins of the Internet” (a Day-Glo look at how lust, sloth, etc., infuse life in the digital age) and such click-and-laugh departments as horoscopes from Larry ”Bud” Melman, the alter ego of Calvert DeForest. The difference between Blender and most of the other twentysomething digizines is that its publishers don’t rely on its zippy, gee-whiz looks to get by; they know that a magazine is first and foremost about high-quality original pieces.

The male-targeted Go Digital features pieces of a different kind. A label on the cover of the quarterly’s first issue reads ”CD18-Mature Audiences Only.” Its cover story isn’t really a story at all but a nude video pictorial of model Christine Fox. As for interactivity, Fox, prancing poolside to the strains of some third-rate Kenny G soundalike, offers you the opportunity to choose whether you’d prefer to see her ”disrobe” or ”brush hair.” You can then make the awkward segue to reviews of alternative music or drier fare on such been-there, done-that subjects as LSD guru Timothy Leary and rave culture.

Like Go, the bimonthly Trouble & Attitude dips its toe into the cybersmut pool — not surprisingly, since it bills itself as ”The Multimedia Magazine for Men.” T & A might be better off changing Men to Guys. The lengthy video-and-text stories on Baywatch and low-budget movie studio Troma in its first issue are strictly frat-boy fare, low on nutritional value but enriched with clever presentations. Harrowingly paced pieces on extreme sports, men’s fashion, and sex in the ’90s are interspersed with Van Halenesque riffs and sexy cyberjockeys who guide you from story to story. And, of course, there are the obligatory alternative-music record reviews.

The one CD-ROM on which all of these album reviews don’t seem like afterthoughts is Launch — a real music nut’s digizine. The best part of the first issue’s set list is an in-studio performance by Matthew Sweet and an interactive interview in which you can listen to his musings on topics such as computers and his latest album. Amid profiles of Belly and Terence Trent D’Arby, Launch features the innovative distraction of a do-it-yourself Gin Blossoms video (which allows you to manipulate a clip for ”Allison Road” by clicking on special effects). But while most of the digizines sprinkle ads (for such products as Levi’s and Nissan) throughout their pages, Launch‘s ads have the annoying habit of appearing whether you click on them or not. Another flaw is its overly complex interface. Launch‘s table of contents resembles a giant cityscape — you just click on the area (a skyscraper, a billboard) you want to visit. Unfortunately, whenever my mouse was idle for a time, I kept getting some Gandhi-length Dewar’s ad. After awhile, I figured it was time to go back to the comforts of an old-fashioned magazine — obnoxious scent strips and all.

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