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Will War Pay for ABC's Web-Only Channel?; McDonald's Serves WiFi, Dr. Pepper Blogs

24/7 news via broadband

Sure, we've seen streaming video from news sites in the past. And Real Networks has done a fabulous job packaging video online into the RealOne SuperPass service for $9.95 per month. So what's so special and new about ABCNews.com's new ABC News Live, a 24-hour pay video service aimed at broadband users that will be part of the Real package? MediaPost's Masha Geller calls the breaking news Web channel "the first ever service of its kind." (OK, we can put aside "Naked News" as a different first of its kind.)

The idea, according to ABCNews.com's Bernard Gershon, is to get people hooked during the day while at work -- where they have broadband connections but not usually TVs. Gershon called the launch "baby steps toward the first Internet news network," and told CBS MarketWatch that he thinks Net video could compete with cable news within a few years.

So far, the critics are taking a wait-and-see attitude. Steve Safran wrote on The Lost Remote that it "looks like mostly repurposed content and features, but interesting concept." Jupiter analyst David Card told Atnewyork he was skeptical of the service bringing in much money because workers might not feel comfortable viewing online video at work, even during a war. Card thought that CNN and MSNBC would likely follow ABC's lead and offer their own premium online feeds.

The war angle is interesting for ABC News Live. During Sept. 11, many sites were knocked out from the huge traffic surge. While many news sites have added bandwidth for this recurrence, it's hard to say if they will be properly prepared for the onslaught, so to speak. What's a surfer to do? Maybe paying $4.95 for a month of ABC's service wouldn't be so bad, if it could guarantee a feed when so many others were failing.

ABC brought out numbers to show how daytime is primetime online for news (echoing so many other studies), and the Financial Times took this to the obvious next step. Because the U.S. planned bombing raids around CNN's schedule in the last Gulf War, FT's Maija Pisola thinks news sites will be hoping for nighttime raids so the time difference puts them during the work day in the U.S. That's weird, but no weirder than ABCNews.com figuring that people will use its "virtual control room" feature to watch four video feeds at once -- on their office computer. Meaning, at work. Uh, you're working, remember? And we wonder why the economy sucks.

 

Fast food, fast connection

Forget about action figures and free toys with your fast food meals. McDonald's is striking back at Starbuck's by offering one hour of high-speed Internet access for each combo meal you buy in participating outlets (mainly in Manhattan, Chicago and an unspecified California town -- likely not Bakersfield). The story seems custom-built for journalistic yuks and the AP's Jim Krane asks, "Would you like super-sized Internet access with that burger and fries?" Krane notes that Borders Books, some hotels and airports, and other public places are offering wireless access in advance of Intel's new Centrino chip.

Perhaps McDonald's, whose sales have dipped recently, can think different. But what about Dr. Pepper? Newsweek's Steven Levy reported that Dr. Pepper was planning a marketing campaign for a new drink, Raging Cow, by getting webloggers to tout the product in exchange for paraphernalia. Not surprisingly, this concept was turned on its head by some bloggers, who started a boycott of Raging Cow. Marketer Tim Ireland told Dr. Pepper pointedly on his blog, "You pay for advertising or coverage in print, you pay for placement on TV. Guess what? It's the same thing here. ... Yes, you can afford it -- especially if you stop pissing your money away on banners and spam."

Ireland exults that his boycott comes up No. 2 on a Yahoo search for "Raging Cow," but as he knows well, any publicity is usually good for a marketer, even in boycott form. So perhaps Dr. Pepper's marketers aren't as clueless as the bloggers thought.


Mark Glaser currently writes technology features for TechWeb, occasional features for The New York Times' Circuits section, marketing material for Comcast Online, and a bi-weekly e-mail newsletter for the Online Publishers Association, whose membership includes most major media companies online. That won't stop him from taking cheap potshots at these outlets, when necessary. You can contact him with any juicy tidbits about online journalism at glaze@sprintmail.com.

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