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WEB SITE ON POPE'S DEATH PROVES TO BE POPULAR

The most popular podcast on the Net this month may be by a priest in Rome. Podcast Alley, a directory site, said its No. 1 program is Catholic Insider, "Podcasting from the heart of the Catholic Church," according to the CatholicInsider.com Web site.

The program is produced by Father Roderick Vonhogen, a priest of the Archdiocese of Utrecht, the Netherlands. One of his recent reports focused on the death of Pope John Paul II. "You will hear how the bells of Rome announce the death of the pope, and I will take you to Saint Peter's Square, where we will experience the emotions of the crowd gathered there in prayer and grief," he said in a statement.

The Pope Weblog has become a popular site for coverage of the Pope's death and funeral.

Thepopeblog.blogspot.com has links to news coverage and its producers promise to "offer insightful commentary and analysis about past events that may shed light on possible opinions from within the College of Cardinals."

The blog is a nonprofit effort operated by an online marketing executive, Jimmy Atkinson, and Andy Hagans, a search-engine optimization consultant.

Drudge gets competition

Matt Drudge has owned the online news/gossip/investigative reporting/scaremongering Web space for almost 10 years. That may be coming to an end, as blog publisher Nick Denton recently launched Sploid.com, a tabloid Web site for breaking news with attitude.

"Sploid is a news site with a tabloid mentality -- top stories up top, played big, as fast as they break," Denton said in an e-mail. "If there's a political line, it's anarcho-capitalist -- sniffing out hypocrisy and absurdity, whether from Salon left or religious right."

Befitting Web style, headlines on Sploid.com link to the full stories on other sites. In a preview of the site, little original reporting was evident, other than an editorial comment roasting CNN for being too "perky" in its broadcast. Straight stories like "Halliburton Gets Billion-Dollar Payday" and "Iraq's Got a Prez" were accompanied by a sensational item, "Ms. Wheelchair Runner-Up Blasts Pageant."

Denton publishes several other blogs, including Gawker, Defamer and Wonkette. He's been credited with having a great eye for writing talent and an easy managerial hand. To produce Sploid, he's lined up Gawker's original editor, Choire Sicha, and two freelance journalists, Ken Layne and Henry Seltzer.

"We want to occupy the space between the whiny left and the ranting right," Denton told Observer.com. "Drudge is very good. It will probably take us 10 years to catch up with his level of traffic. We'll have 1,000th of the traffic, at least to begin with."

Who reads blogs?

An online survey of about 2,000 people by Harris Interactive (HPOL) found 44 percent say they read political blogs.

Most catch up once a month but 5 percent say they check in daily, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal.

Still, 56 percent of the public has never read a political blog, the report said.

Groceries online

Sales of FreshDirect.com, a New York City-based grocery retailer, topped $100 million in 2004, almost twice the level of 2003.

Real estate brokers now routinely cite FreshDirect in their sales pitches for pricey condos, according to the New York Times. "We think of it as another amenity to offer our tenants, like dry cleaning or a gym," said one company's leasing director.

Also last year, 52 percent of Zagat Survey participants said they ordered groceries online, compared with 16 percent the year before, the article said.

Net advertising up

The online advertising beat grew stronger in the first quarter of this year. Marketers spent more money on Internet advertising than they did in the last quarter of 2004, according to a report released by Deutsche Bank and MediaPost.

The quarterly study of 108 media executives reported that 71 percent said their clients spent more dollars online, and overall, Deutsche Bank estimated, the quarter-over-quarter increase in spending was 11 percent.

-- MarketWatch.com

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