Site Seeing: Zines work for several reasons

Greg Skinner ( is a communications consultant for Mina Research and a marketing columnist who specializes in the kids market. He also admits to having an unhealthy obsession with the World Wide Web. KidScreen asked Skinner to do some browsing on...
July 1, 1996

Greg Skinner ( is a communications consultant for Mina Research and a marketing columnist who specializes in the kids market. He also admits to having an unhealthy obsession with the World Wide Web. KidScreen asked Skinner to do some browsing on our behalf and report on some of the interesting kids sites as seen from the eye of a near-kid himself.

When you want to express yourself and get your point across on the Net, you start a zine (an on-line magazine). Noted for often being fairly eccentric, they’re also usually packed with heaps of creativity and excellent, thought-provoking content. That’s why at some point, everyone should pay them a visit.

Zines work for a several reasons:

They speak their mind: exercising available latitude to say-usually quite candidly-what they think.

They’re creative: because when you don’t have a ton of cash (which they often don’t), your creativity usually increases accordingly. Remember, necessity is invention’s mum.

They’re created by people who have an intimate knowledge of the subject: and because of that, there’s an intensity that permeates throughout the site. This is a magnet for attracting people who want to know what’s going on. It means content is informative, stimulating and most importantly has a degree of credibility.

There are two teen zines this month that are as slick, if not more so, than a lot of he larger commercial sites out there. Spank deals with all aspects of youth culture and Skateboard with, well, skateboarding. Both are intelligent and articulate and give their market the insights they so desire, speak their language, and are true to the culture. There’s no pretending and no heavy soliciting. And that’s why people keep showing up.

There should be no reason why every site out there isn’t doing this already, because this is what a Web site is all about, the expression of some facet of yourself. Whether it be information or excitement, a site is who you are and what it is you have to say. Therein lies the key.


This zine bills itself as ‘the premiere digital skateboarding information source.’ And you know what? The tagline d’es not lie.

Three well-organized indices help guide your cruise. Each is cleanly laid out with a ‘new!’ button when appropriate. Right away you feel activity happening beneath each of the links, and sure as ketchup on fries, it’s all there.

Derek’s Crackpot rules with several short essays that dig straight to the heart of skater culture. The content is right on point as he expounds the ideologies, the philosophies and the experiences of skaters everywhere. It’s stimulating, scintillating and the funky typefaces help keep it all freeze-dried fresh.

Simply outstanding has to be Building Your Own Skatepark. Herein lies a sample business proposal, financing details and actual construction blueprints. This is an example to sites everywhere of how to take advantage of the medium, a section that uses the power of Net to disseminate info and to forward the goals of others. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant.

Color use is excellent throughout the site, with not a whole lot of bed sheet backgrounds found anywhere. Instead you see the bright, the bold and the beautiful all working to differentiate each page (check out the faded skater imagery on the homepage wallpaper).

So you’re a young skater searching for corporate interaction? Then look no further than the Companies link. Pick and click and it scoots you to the detail that you want. But whoa, you also uncover interviews with the pros that use the products. Extremely cool. And of course, there’s the on-line catalogues. It’s all so sweet and comprehensive, and once again, everything’s at your fingertips.

This location is working hard to deconstruct the negative sentiment and bad reputations that skaters have as hooligans, and it d’es an excellent job. The production and execution of the site demonstrate just how bright and resourceful they really are.

There are movie reviews with embedded Quicktime videos, interviews with the pros, and answers to the technical questions. Skatepark listings and links to other skate sites round it all out. has the good stuff that skaters are looking for, and like the class keener, it’s all so organized. So what’s wrong with it? The content and graphics are so good that any wait at all for new stuff would be a drag. Fini.

The site can be summed up in two words, skater culture, and it’s here by the truckload. You might run across a bit of swearing, but for the most part, it’s simple colloquialisms. This site is zen for skaters.

Spank Zine

‘MAD COW X-ING.’ That’s the very first thing you see at Spank, a zine ‘for teens, by teens’ that sponges up youth culture and wrings it out on the Net. Madness at a teen site? One would hope so.

The site kicks it off with a nice range of feature articles-interviews, martial arts philosophy, perspectives on the Middle East-and each one is very well written. There’s no jive talk in here.

Random Taggings is cool because it’s verbal graffiti and personals all rolled into one, and everybody has something to say. With such a right-on concept, a monster boost would come from the addition of some graphics. ‘I dig SPAM and Nirvana’ just loses its punch on a plain white background.

More opinions from the mouths of babes in Spout Off, where Spank introduces a question and readers respond. ‘Which is more important: money or love?’ (money). The mailbag has answers from all over the planet, which is mighty impressive with excellent opinions and commentary.

What you soon notice about this site is that it’s pretty careful to always stay near the fence. In sharing out a nice balance of opinions, it’s pleasant and inoffensive, and that’s never been a bad thing. Where a lot of sites take a hard stance ’till death do us part, when you’re at Spank, you’re in Switzerland.

Creative Imaginings has p’etry by the more creative types and Musicwordsfilm solidly crafted music and film reviews. The latter is indexed, but as for genres, it comes up a bit skinny.

The catchall is the Other Stuff section with back issue content to help bolster depth, a letters section featuring current stuff and the best of the best, and a link explaining what Spank is all about (why is this buried at the bottom?). The only thing that’s missing is a search tool to help track things down.

Little things like reader mail having hypertext links to relevant columns and sending dates are impressive details. The site truly flexes some muscle when it starts to coax the voice out of its readership. There’s excellent diversity, solid depth and tons of response, and it all kicks butt.

Simplicity abounds, and it’s a cinch to zoom around in here. But simplicity can be double-edged when it comes to Web sites. Ease of use often compromises user stimulation. Spank is no exception and it gets cut when virtually every page gets an identical layout. Where you expect it to be all excited and manic, it’s found sitting quietly in the corner.

If there is one shortfall, it’s that Spank lacks intensity. Links? Interactivity? Graphical refreshment? They’re all conspicuously absent because there’s no real attempt to take advantage of the medium; the variety is there, but the kick isn’t. This is ‘youth culture on-line,’ so a little spice is in order. Get that, and people will really start to have a cow.

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