01 July 1997

THE CYBER-COURTIERS at Associated Electronic Publishing have learned to their cost [or, to be precise, the noble Viscount Harmsworth's cost] that the Royal Family is not the copper-bottomed moneyspinner they assumed. The Associated Newspapers subsidiary has axed RoyaltyUK, its subscription-only Website, after only three months of operation. Primarily targeting international audiences, AEP had the neck to charge an annual fee of $110 (£66) to log-in to the mélange of blue-blooded tittle-tattle, fashion and lifestyle. Unsurprisingly, the mix of hard dollars with soft options proved a miserable failure in attracting punters, especially as Her Britannic Majesty's freebie official site has proved such a success [see overleaf]. But even abject failure can be spin-doctored into success of a kind: AEP's chief executive, Paul Zwillenberg, dubbed his damp squib 'A research and development exercise, it was important for us to understand the implications of building and running such a system and, in that respect, it achieved all its objectives.'