ONLINE HYBRID POPS INTO VIEW

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A reporters'-eye view of New Media Expo, an interactive market trade show in Los Angeles earlier this month:

Hybrids: Talk of what's hot was not about a CD-ROM or online service, but a hybrid of both. First in the class is the announced but unreleased Microsoft Baseball, which combines an encyclopedic array of baseball statistics, video and sound with a daily online update of the prior day's results. Rob Lippincott, who heads Ziff-Davis Interactive, hopes to have one or more hybrids by early 1995. Joy Solomon, senior VP-general manager of medical new-media publisher IVI Publishing, likewise expects great things from the convergence of CD-ROM and online.

CB or not CB: Online services are filled with as much chatter as citizens band radios were in the mid-'70s. But America Online President-CEO Stephen Case dismisses claims that online is the soon-to-fade CB fad of the '90s, noting the rise of databases, shopping and other online offerings. "It's not just about chat," he told Ad Age.

Electronic male: Just 20% of America Online's customers are women. Mr. Case speculates that's because men account for the bulk of home PC users, but he's looking for ways to bring in more women.

Flaming on Internet: Recently publicized incidents in which advertisers slipped commercial messages onto the Internet, a worldwide web of computer networks that has long been the domain of serious techies, point to cultural conflict between Internet veterans and new users getting on line. "The Internet is very grassroots, very Wild West," said Ziff's Mr. Lippincott. "There are fears that America Online and others will gentrify the Internet."

Grown-up games: In a departure from gory teen-oriented videogames, Eidolon in June will introduce an interactive CD-ROM computer game, Millennium Auction, with the wit and intrigue of board games like Clue or Monopoly. The goal is to accumulate the most valuable portfolio of the world's art and pop culture treasures, taking into account changing world events. "This is a game for grown-ups, not adults," said VP Michelle Blank. "Adult CD-ROM" has a more risque meaning.

Hollywood and games: There was much talk at the show about the melding of videogames and movies. Interactive CD-ROMs are beginning to appear with Hollywood talent like TV's Kirk Cameron. So far, though, Hollywood gets only a supporting role. Players can control action on the screen, but the choppy digitized video is reminiscent of Pong, the early videogame from the '70s-merely a glimpse of things to come. But interactive games, with production budgets generally below $1 million, can't match the production values of major Hollywood films, which cost an average $30 million to produce.

What consumers want: Based on interviews with thousands of consumers, Nick Donatello, president-ceo of San Francisco-based market researcher Odyssey, thinks he knows what consumers want from the information superhighway. They want programming where and when they want, from a source they trust, and they want to control what they see-no unwanted stuff like ads. They want their privacy protected, and they want something that's easy to use, like a TV remote control device. And, oh yes, it better work right the first time.

Please rewind the tapes: Robert Carberry, who left IBM Corp. last month to become VP-technology at Blockbuster Entertainment Corp., revealed the real reason for the job switch: "Wayne [Huizenga, Blockbuster chairman] offered me free, unlimited video rentals and no late charges."

Reports from Tim Clark, Bradley Johnson and Scott Donaton.

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