Like its print cousin, Empire's Web site is aimed at anyone interested in films. It's also free and gives readers access to extra content that isn't published in the magazine. But don't confuse it with Empire's other Web site which has extra features and can only be accessed if you subscribe to CompuServe for a monthly charge of #6.50.
The best thing about the site, from a publisher's point of view, is that it helps the magazine serve its readers in a way that wouldn't be possible in a monthly title. An example of this is the movie release section which is updated weekly and features reviews and ratings of all the new movies to hit the cinemas. Another section that takes advantage of the immediacy of Internet publishing is news, which is updated daily. This is where readers can find out the latest gossip on the film industry.
It's also good to see the publishers of Empire using the Web to communicate and build relationships with readers - there are a number of sections which use this interactive aspect to good effect. Movie Track, for instance, focuses on films in production, latest developments, production hassles and any associated rumours. It invites visitors to the Web site to contribute by emailing gossip. Empire also has what it claims is a world's first: the chance to write a script online and have it seen by some of the most important people in the business. Readers can all contribute sections to the script and make comments and suggestions.
Following on from these sections is Spotlight, one of the most in-depth parts of the site. Here, Empire has taken over 40 movies and included biographies, previews and trailers for each. At the time of writing in April, this section featured films such as Jerry Maguire, Star Wars and Romeo and Juliette, so it's well up to date. But Empire's publishers will no doubt be aware that there are more impressive film sites on the Web, and it will be under pressure to build up its archive.
WHO SHOT JR?
Another link takes readers to a section called Fun 'n' Games, which as its name suggests is packed with frivolous film information. This is where Trivia, Top Ten and Games reside. Have you heard the argument about whether or not Decker from Blade Runner is actually a replicant? According to Paul M. Sammon, author of Future Noir: The Making of Blade Runner: "It depends on which version you see, because without the critical unicorn daydream there's only a possibility. But much as I hate to be a kill joy, in the director's cut, there's no doubt. Deckard absolutely is a replicant." There's plenty more where this came from.
I do have one gripe: the graphics on the home page are a little too big. With one bitmap and 14 smaller graphics, it's slow to download. A search engine would not go amiss either. There's enough information on the site to warrant one, and it would certainly make the site easier to navigate.
I'M NOT ONE TO GOSSIP, BUT...
In terms of content, Empire on the Web is very rich. There are seven separate sections, each with a number of sub-sections and on top of the ones already described, Empire is running a chat server that readers can use to interact with each other on two "channels", General Movie Talk Channel and Movie Rumours. When I looked at the thread of the conversation, there had been over 200 contributions, so it's obviously a popular feature. Finally, Empire offers visitors links to other movie sites, and these are updated weekly. It's nice to see a site that doesn't try to lock readers into its own content.
Aside from offering great value to its readers, Empire is clearly using the site as a cross-promotional tool and as a way to archive content from the magazine. It's an impressive effort, and to judge from what has already been achieved, it will get better. If more magazines were to follow Empire's lead, the Web would be a better place for it.
Launch: December 95 Last revamp June 96
Target Audience: Existing Empire readers, international readers and Internet users
Competitors: Mr Showbiz, The Hollywood Reporter
Hits Per Day: Unknown
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