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INTERACTIVE;PLANET OASIS GIVES WEB SITES PROMOTION CLOUT

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Location, location, location.

That old real estate mantra has new meaning on Planet Oasis, an unusual Web site directory marking the latest way for companies to promote their home online.

Nearly 200 Web sites will participate in Planet Oasis, a graphical interface resembling a virtual city that's expected to ship late this month with Packard Bell PCs (http://www.planetoasis.com).

Each building bears the logo of a Web site; clicking on it links a user to that company's site. Users must already have a Web browser and Internet access service, both of which come bundled with Packard Bell PCs.

Fifteen companies paid $10,000 each to be featured "downtown." They include such prominent players as Time Warner, for Pathfinder, Warner Bros. and Time-Life; Turner Broadcasting System's CNN; The New York Times; and search sites Lycos, Yahoo! and Excite.

Other companies paid $3,000 to appear in topical areas such as magazines, games and reference. Forest products marketer Boise Cascade even put its icon on the trees.

BUNDLED FOR SEVEN MONTHS

For the price, sponsors get bundled in Packard Bell machines for seven months, a period of time in which the company will ship more than 1 million machines.

The Web directory was designed and marketed by Ark Interface II (http://www.arkspace.com), a Seattle-based Packard Bell NEC unit.

For marketers wanting to build Web traffic, the appeal is clear: Sites will be easily accessible to users of new Internet-ready PCs from Packard Bell NEC, the No. 1 U.S. home PC brand.

Paying so little for access to new home PC owners is "nothing but goodness," said Dale Christensen, senior product manager at Sierra On-line, a PC games marketer that's participating. "That's the kind of advertising I can't buy anywhere else."

AMBITIOUS PLANS

Ark Interface has ambitious plans to expand distribution. In the next version, due out late this year, Ark hopes to charge sponsors 1/2 for each user who clicks from Planet Oasis to a site. Ark also hopes to sell Planet Oasis to software marketers to include on their discs.

But early participants are less than enthused about the pay-per-visit model.

"I'm not sure we would be even signing up under that business model," said Sierra's Mr. Christensen. "I would probably try to negotiate a flat fee with them."

"Clicks to my site [and] spending time there are two different things," said Chris Murphy, director of marketing at Planet Oasis sponsor Specialized Bicycle Components. "If I'm paying for clicks, I'm not really into that."

In the future, Planet Oasis will have room for 1,000 paying sites, said J. Scott Campbell, VP-design at Ark.

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