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AOL portal targets users of MSN, Yahoo

The online service that used to charge by the minute is deciding how much it can give away.

Time Warner's America Online is reported hard at work deciding to move content outside the walls of its subscription service.

The potentially risky shift in strategy has generated a lot of debate inside AOL's offices, according to the New York Times. Months of effort have gone into deciding which of the subscription service's content will be on the Web and how much will stay behind the garden wall.

Content AOL has developed for children and teen-agers will not be free, the story said. Nor is it likely than an expected free e-mail service will include addresses ending in "".

"The portal idea makes sense, but it's not easy," Jordan Rohan, an Internet analyst, told the Times. "It's not clear the brand has what it takes to give Yahoo or MSN a run for its money."

In the wake of the recently announced reorganization of America Online into four operating groups, a memo outlining the strategy has been published by

In it, CEO Jon Miller wrote the new "Audience" division will "extend our special "AOL-ness' onto the Web. By migrating more and more programming and features, we'll not only grow and effectively monetize our Web audiences, but also give consumers, advertisers and potential partners a much fuller understanding of the programming and experiences AOL delivers."

Less Wonkette hits

No surprise that Wonkette's traffic is down 40 percent since Election Day.

With several million visitors a month, the titillating typer still has lots of readers. But, with "West Wing" featuring a Beltway gossip blog recently, ya gotta wonder. They didn't use Wonkette; they called it some vanilla thing like "D.C. Blogger."

Last time I saw a blogger on TV it was Matt Drudge of on HBO's "K Street."

As I remember, Drudge was unhappy about it. But it was still the real thing, not an imitation.

Clicking all the way

Millions of Internet users are ready to start clicking and shopping any minute, according to Feedback Research, a division of Claria Corp., a marketing consulting firm.

Millions of consumers have agreed to cooperate with Claria and participated in a survey. More than half of them (52 percent) said they would begin shopping more than 30 days before Christmas, a 9 percentage-point rise from last year.

Two-thirds of respondents said they would do some shopping online this year, a 12 percentage-point gain from last year.

Online marketing

Universal Music Group plans to release tracks by a little-known Nashville band through several online music stores.

Distributing tunes by Shazam could lead to something bigger, like a recording contract and a CD release if the sales through Apple Computer's iTunes store and RealNetworks' Rhapsody are strong enough, according to the New York Times.

Jay Gilbert, an executive at Universal, said distributing through online stores is an alternative to the label spending a lot of money to sign a group and then produce and market an album.

The upside for Shazam is that the group gets a larger-than-usual share of sales revenue and retains ownership of its master recordings.

Shopping with Santa

Yahoo has launched a "Shopping Snow Globe" in New York's Times Square as part of its holiday shopping promotion.

The exhibit will include Santa and some elves to help people do comparison-shopping using Wi-Fi Internet kiosks. Yahoo will also post a Web page for digital photos taken with Santa.

Web wedding planner

The Knot Inc., a wedding-planning Web site, agreed to make Michael C. Fina, a New York City specialty retailer, its exclusive gift registry provider of china, crystal and silver.

The Knot's registry, launched in 1998, includes more than 20,000 gift items.

Tracking shoppers is tracking the number of people on its site this holiday shopping season.

A counter in the right-hand column on the retailer's home page estimates how many people were on the site in the previous 60 minutes. For example, last week during the lunch hour, the counter estimated the site had hosted 521,000 visitors.

Hannity Insider debuts

Sean Hannity has expanded his presence in cyberspace with the launch of the Hannity Insider online subscription service.

His fans, who pay $5.95 a month, can download daily radio shows to MP3 players, or listen to the programs live on the Net.

Members will also be able to use "customized Hannity Messenger software" to send comments to the talk show host, according to a news release.

The service, at, was developed by the Walt Disney Co.'s ABC Radio networks and Loudeye Corp., a digital technology company.

MSN's free anti-virus

The same day America Online rolled out its new client software with built-in virus scanning and anti-spyware tools, Microsoft's MSN issued a news release talking up its own efforts to protect customers' e-mail and communications services.

"We rolled out free anti-virus software and cleaning in July to all our free Hotmail customers worldwide," said Brian Arbogast, corporate vice president at the software giant.

He added Microsoft has also begun a new anti-spam effort designed to fight junk e-mailers who send messages that look like they are from legitimate senders.

Offering hot hits

Evan Harrison hopes to do for Clear Channel Communications what he did for America Online: namely, create a popular broadband service offering hot hits and must-listen Webcasts.

The head of the online company's music and radio division is shifting over to the San Antonio- based broadcaster's online radio division, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Clear Channel's goal is to use the Internet to exploit its local radio formats.

Meanwhile, Bill Wilson, the head of AOL's entertainment division, will oversee music and radio temporarily.

-- CBS MarketWatch