More delays for publishers trying transaction models

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Imagine having a product to sell, an audience available to buy it and no cash registers to ring it up or bags in which to package it.

That's one analogy for what publishers ready to sell content through monthly subscription areas or microtransaction models say they're still experiencing as they try to find the best technology solutions for paid content areas.

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Playboy postponed the launch of a pay area of its site after it split with Neoglyphics, the Chicago Web developer it had commissioned to build the infrastructure.

Instead of building a "shopping cart" system where visitors to the site could make multiple low-price image purchases, Playboy is now building a monthly premium area called the Playboy Cyber Club, which it will offer for $6.95 per month using Netscape Merchant and related Netscape software, said Eileen Kent, VP-new media. The Cyber Club will launch in March, at the earliest.

READY TO ROLL

While research predicts subscriptions and content transactions won't be viable revenue streams for at least two more years, many sites get enough traffic to be large enough for that revenue stream to begin working. Playboy and Hearst New Media's HomeArts both claim 1 million users per month.

Brian Sroub, VP-marketing at HomeArts, said his site will build a revenue stream through clubs, such as a diet club launching later this year in HomeArts' Body Beautiful area.

In Hearst's hypothetical diet club, before buying an eating habits analysis by a professional nutritionist, a user would have to input daily information about eating behaviors.

The Christian Science Monitor in December split with partner Clickshare Corp. and signed on with IBM Corp. The partnership allows the newspaper to sell articles both on IBM's infoMarket service and on the Monitor site for 75 cents each.

"IBM's product appealed to me for two reasons," said David Creagh, electronic publishing manager. "The customer does not have to download anything, and it wasn't developed by a couple of guys in a garage. They'll handle the commerce part."

"Down the road I'm very interested in charging very small amounts, say one-tenth of a cent per page, with say 40 cents maximum per visit. But we don't want to be the first to do it," Mr. Creagh said.

He said he expects full installation of the new IBM system this month.

Copyright January 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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