EW takes a look at sites direct from your supermarket aisles

By Glenn Gaslin
Updated March 26, 2001 at 05:00 AM EST
Star: starmagazine.com/American Media Inc.

Scandal sheets hit the Net

TABLOID WEBSITES EXPOSED! Well, maybe that’s overstating it. EW ATTACKS TABS! Not exactly. NATION’S TABS ONLINE! That’s more like it. Supermarket journalism’s appetite for celeb and scandal seems a natural fit for the gossip soaked Web, but it wasn’t until last fall that American Media Inc., which owns the Star, the National Enquirer, and the Globe, started using the Net for more than just subscriptions. Like a page of Tom and Nicole headlines, the sites often promise more than they deliver.

”The fundamental truth of tabloids is that there’s much less there than meets the eye,” says Jennifer Mendelsohn, who deconstructs the papers in a biweekly column, ”Keeping Tabs,” in the ‘zine Slate. The ”shock,” she says, often turns out to be less than shocking: GWYNETH CANCER TEARS TURN TO JOY is actually about her father’s ailment. HANNIBAL STAR’S RAUNCHY PAST means Julianne Moore once shot a scene without undies. After a month in which the Enquirer sent ”real” papers chasing big stories (the Clinton pardons and Jesse Jackson’s illegitimate child), we stand in line (online) and check out a guilty pleasure.

? The National Enquirer
There are things that inquiring minds, at least online, don’t want to know. This version of the stalwart sleaze slinger oozes exposés but leaves out the ”real people” stories that pack the paper — the heroic dogs, the miracle cures for arthritis. Explains Amy Persenaire, the tab’s manager of new media, ”The online version is more of what people perceive the Enquirer to be: just scandal and gossip and news.” B+

? Star
Think of this as Teen Enquirer. The site skews Hollywood, young and in trouble: ‘N Sync shockers instead of Clinton payoffs. Site add ons include daily tracking of all things Aniston and ”Survivor,” a ”most notorious” list (No. 1? O.J.), and, as of this writing, one use each of eating disorder and skinny dipping. B?

? Weekly World News
This checkout standard perfected straight faced lunacy long before the Onion, but it loses the magic on this awkward site. Tales of the space alien visiting President Bush and an infant Titanic survivor seem, amazingly, less credible. The News redeems itself in a section devoted to Bat Boy, the pointy eared freak who inspired an Off Broadway musical and, according to the site’s search engine, has never met with the space alien. C

? Megastar
U.S. tabs can’t match the daily headline wars between their cheeky, quick witted cousins in the U.K., but now the rest of us can observe. In this vast, voracious version of London’s Daily Star — a splashier read than rival the Sun — the celeb news is, well, more British, which means more fun: SCORCHING BRIT VID SHOCKS MUM. MEL C: MY DI DEATH FEARS. But inexplicably, it seems half the stories are about Euro pop star Robbie Williams. Who do they think he is? Bat Boy? A?