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CD-ROMS CLAMOR FOR CATALOGS APPLE SETS SECOND TEST, BUT THIS TIME IT FACES BIGGER COMPETITION

By Published on .

Despite the mixed success Apple Computer had with its first test of catalog shopping on CD-ROM, the market is booming.

At least three other companies will offer new shopping mediums this fall, letting consumers use CD-ROM, online services and the Internet to shop from home or office.

Apple and partner Redgate Communications Corp. will launch their second test of electronic catalog shopping in October, with some significant changes from the six-week test that ended in January.

Gone will be the name En Passant, although no new name has been chosen. And the service will be expanded beyond CD-ROM, said Ted Leonsis, chairman of Vero Beach, Fla.-based Redgate.

America Online will join the two companies in the fall test, offering online connections. America Online acquired Redgate earlier this year.

Apple and Redgate also plan to test cable modem connections, which would allow fuller interactivity and transmission of full-motion video.

It's also possible Apple's new eWorld online service will offer the shopping service.

A formal announcement of the test is expected in September. Steve Franzese, Apple's director of business development-new media division, was on a six-week sabbatical preparing for the test and could not be reached for comment.

Apple and Redgate won't say what catalogers have signed on for the next test, although it's known 800-Flowers will be returning.

"The ones who got involved the first time thinking they were going to sell their product cheaper than they sold paper and don't have the wherewithal to experiment and try, some of those guys won't be on," said Mr. Leonsis.

Twenty catalogers participated in the first test, including Williams-Sonoma, Right Start Catalog and Lands' End.

Apple won't be alone this fall. Contentware, a New York company started by former Ziff Communications President Kenneth Koppel, plans to introduce Shopping2000 on the Internet and CD-ROM late this month.

Some 42 catalogers have signed on, some paying $5,000 for a 10-item text and photo listing, said Mr. Koppel.

Participants include Norm Thompson Outfitters, Recreational Equipment, Tower Records, Sony Music, San Francisco Music Box, Big Dog Sportswear, Beverly Hills Motoring Association and the Right Start Catalog. Other companies have signed on for "line" listings-copy-only listings of company name, address, telephone and fax numbers.

Mr. Koppel is candid about the initial prospects for Shopping2000.

"We don't expect it to be a lot to begin with," he said. "It's a matter of putting [the discs] in the hands of computer owners. Basically, it's a lot of controlled sampling."

Some 75% of the 400,000 Shopping2000 CD-ROMs will be bundled with hardware from five direct mail companies, including PC Connection and Mac Connection. Shopping2000 also will be given free with software purchases from Egghead Software.

Consumers also can buy the discs at Egghead for $9.95 for all four quarterly discs. A second release of 400,000 is planned for November.

Another company, Magellan Interactive Multimedia, based in Calgary, Alberta, is following its March release of 100,000 Merchant CD-ROM catalogs with a November launch of 200,000 multiplatform discs compatible for both Macintosh and PC. Among the 25 catalogers involved are Spiegel, Lands' End, Crutchfield Corp., Damark International and Lillian Vernon.

Magellan in September plans to release 30,000 copies of a second disc, called the Voyager. That CD-ROM profiles international tour destinations and is sponsored by such companies as Mountain Travel-Sobek, Australian Tourist Commission, Air France, Sunline Cruises and Qantas Vacations, said Chris Comfort, VP-advertising.

The discs will be offered for $4 shipping and handling via in-house-created ads in Mac Home Journal, and through consumer response to a public relations campaign, Mr. Comfort said.

A fourth company, Interactive Catalog Corp., Seattle, is taking a different route. Instead of compiling many different catalogs on one disc, Interactive Catalog is developing single-topic CD-ROMs.

The company in November plans to release the first of its "Know-It-All" series of CD-ROM catalogs.

Interactive Catalog will bundle 500,000 discs with Egghead's product catalog, offering information on 4,000 computer hardware and software products. The CD-ROM will include reviews, head-to-head comparisons and advice from syndicated columnists.

Nearly half the disc will be dedicated to ad space, with Microsoft Corp.'s Home division the first advertiser signed on.

Future catalogs could involve sportswear or travel marketers.

While traditional paper catalogs have greater portability and ease of browsing than CD, electronic proponents tout the medium's search-and-sort capabilities, and the potential for video.

Still, few suspect CD-ROM cataloging will replace paper cataloging.

"With CD, we can tell a fuller story," said Mr. Danuloff. "Our idea is to use the CD to get people further down the buying cycle."

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