Over on 24/7 Wall Street, they've got an article rating the web sites of such major magazines as Readers Digest, Better Homes & Gardens, National Geographic, Playboy, and Game Informer, and others. They were rated on things such as strength of content, ease of use, use of multimedia and forums and such, design, advertising support, etc. The highest grade was A-, for TV Guide; lowest score was a D-, which was given to Good Housekeeping's web site.
But enough of the muggles' magazines. Let's do our own ratings for the web sites of magazines covering science fiction, horror, and satire. In no particular order:
National Lampoon: This site is an underachiever. Though visitors can read short, somewhat humorous articles (nothing like what made the magazine great), view videos, and, well, buy NatLamp products, there's nothing here that makes you think you're at a great web site, much less one with a great print legacy. Grade C-.
Harvard Lampoon: Uneven. What little content is available on this site tends to be better than on the other humor sites on this list. But there's not much of it, so this site is mostly a mix between a placeholder and an advertisement for the Harvard Lampoon organization's products. The content would rate an A- or B+, but the other factors weigh down the site to a Grade C+.
Starlog: Incomplete. What is on the site is quite good, so if the future entails mostly "more of the same" (plus, please, a return to the print world) that won't be so bad. The site is nicely designed, easy to navigate, and contains science fiction and fantasy news, reviews, short videos, a (mostly dormant) forum, lengthy interviews, and more. I'm glad that they're still giving space to the occasional little-known SF effort, such as '77. So it's a grade C+ now, mostly because it's clearly a work in progress; at present, it's nowhere near as chock-full of content as sister site Fangoria.
SFX: Should be better. The design is very weak, and it takes a while to realize that there really is quite a bit of good content here; you have to dig. Click on the "features" button on the left side of the page, and what you get -- or at least what I got when I just tried it -- was mostly stuff about how to write a letter to the magazine, some weird multi-part thing on tattoos (really?), advertisements for SFX products masquerading as feature articles (a problem with the magazine, too, BTW). With a different design and better organization -- and a more professional treatment of the ad/edit break -- this could be a Grade B+; but it's so user-unfriendly right now, it merits a Grade C.
Cinefantastique: Who knew? The little magazine published out of suburban Chicago that was eventually bought by another publisher (after the tragic death of its original founder) which eventually stopped publishing the magazine ... and it's still around as an online-only service. Articles, videos, news, etc. Like the original magazine from which it takes its inspiration (and name and logo and some staff), this site is not flashy but is a welcome independent voice on the SF media scene. Grade B-.
Fangoria: Wow. With seemingly all of its owner's resources going to the horror genre (instead of the SF genre of its sister franchise, Starlog), Fango's web site had better have something to show for itself, and it does. Extensive and very lively forums (including participation by the publication's staff), videos, news, reviews, blogs, podcasts, comics, and so much more, this is the complete deal. Grade A.
Cracked: Odd. My first reaction when I discovered this site a few months ago was that its articles tended to be, in fact, funnier than what was on the National Lampoon's web site. Point in its favor. But the more I checked back at Cracked's site, the more annoyed (and disappointed) I became that almost every single article was "The 10 Most Disgusting Real Bathroom Cleaners" or "Five Stupid but True Political Quotes" or "The Seven Sex Myths that Are Actually True" or ... well, you get the point. There are other ways of formulating an article, but that's a lesson lost on this site. Grade C.
Titanic: This German satire magazine looks to be more current-issues oriented than most of its American cousins, but it's full of the usual attacks on politicians, celebrities, and human failings. The web site's biggest weakness is design -- it's nothing exciting to look at, but it has quite a bit of text, videos, postcards, etc., to keep the visitor amused. Grade C.
Mad: Not much available on this mag's site, which is mostly a storefront. A plus is that it has some games to play. A minus is that there's just not much content available, which is kind of odd for a magazine that's something like 4,500 years old. And wouldn't most people come to a Mad web site looking for some of its famous cartoon artwork? Yes, they would; and that's why they'll quickly leave this site, cuz it ain't here. Grade D+.
Space View: A well-done if unspectacular web site for the long-running German science fiction magazine. The site is marred by some annoying popups (including one that, even after you kill it, makes you click on another popup to confirm that you want to leave the page; that's enough to make you leave the site entirely; it shows a lot of disrespect to the visitor). But there is pretty deep content and a fairly good navigation (though I received an error when clicking the Forum link). And if you want a science-fiction calendar showing you the birthdates of actor Jeffrey Combs or every actor from every Trek series ever, this is your site, and you don't even need to know German to understand the calendar. Grade B-.