FOR THOSE UNFAMILiar with it, cyberspace can be a chilly realm. As of this week, though, PEOPLE readers who subscribe to the CompuServe Information Service can click on an all-new, yet warmly familiar icon: ours. Under the stewardship of the magazine's new media directors, Jeremy Koch and Maria Wilhelm, PEOPLE has staked out a cozy home on the digital range. PEOPLE Online will bring the same blend of lively photography and compelling celebrity news, human interest and fun as the magazine you hold in your hands. What's more, PEOPLE Online will enable CompuServe users to electronically "chat" with one another—and with PEOPLE staffers—about our stories. "More and more, the wired generation is using computers for entertainment and education, not just business," says Hala Makowska, associate director of new media. "PEOPLE's world is part of that future."
Leading our readers into cyberspace is PEOPLE Online's editor, Eric Levin, who has overseen eight PEOPLE special issues, most recently last fall's At Home with Country Music's Hottest Stars. "There are still things you can do in print better than you can do online—like wrap text around pictures," says Levin, who came to PEOPLE as a writer in 1980. "So we put our emphasis on things you can do online that you can't do, or do easily, in print—like offer video and audio in addition to photos, let readers search back issues or include bonus features there isn't room for on a magazine's tightly budgeted pages." Working with him will be editor Mary H.J. Farrell, writers J.D. Podolsky and Marianne Goldstein, reporter Lorraine Goods and photo editor Teri Barbero.
We think you'll agree we came up with a lot. In addition to the full text of PEOPLE Weekly—posted at 11 p.m. every Friday night—the service includes PEOPLE Daily, offering fresh pop-cultural news, a Quote of the Day and items distilled from the current issue. The PEOPLE Magazine Forum, an electronic back fence where CompuServe's worldwide audience of more than 2.5 million paying subscribers can message us and each other, was launched Dec. 30; there have already been online debates about Brad Pitt
's designation as the Sexiest Man Alive and Connie Chung's interview with Newt Gingrich's very candid mother, Kit. Another highlight will be regular live conferences featuring celebrity guests. On Feb. 2, CompuServes can log on to our first such event: Christie Brinkley will be online to answer questions as participants post them. Even though the questions and answers are typed, the dialogue quickly takes on a conversational tone. Future guests will include Christian Slater and Sally Field.
Back at our offices, the PEOPLE staff is also logging on; we'll be hanging out in the Forum. Disagree with a review? Tell us why. Want to praise us, haze us or give us a good story idea? Boot up your computer. We want to hear from you. And we can all type really fast.
For information about subscribing to CompuServe, call 1-800-337-8557.