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How much is sound worth to your site?

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Adding sound to a Web site will transform it from a printlike environment to a true multimedia platform. But the question for businesses on the Web is this: How necessary is it to enhance a site with audio?

Developers and ad agencies participating in the NetMarketing Web Price Index survey say a small site, such as the hypothetical ACME Sprockets, could add a few real-time sound bites to its site for a median price of $960.

Medium-size sites wanting to offer audio samples of existing materials would pay about $6,250. And for a large site like Blockmonster Entertainment, it would cost about $96,500 to broadcast a concert live on the Web, the Web Price Index survey found.

But for the most part, audio capability is still an extra download for Web users. Neither Netscape Communications Corp.'s Navigator 3.0 browser nor Microsoft Internet Explorer 3.0 have embedded audio software, although subsequent versions will.

Sites that want to offer audio should provide a link to a place to download the software.

But how valuable is audio in the first place? In the case of ACME Sprockets, developers say there's not necessarily a need for a site to carry an audio message from the president, no matter how cheap it is.

Instead, sites should offer audio only if it's useful. Audio can be a powerful tool for businesses to offer a tutorial to clients, for example.

Sites also can offer speeches by company executives, something Microsoft Corp. has done recently. Audio also can enhance a virtual trade show online.

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