PUBLISHERS CLICK WITH INTERACTIVE CONNECTION;TIMES SYNDICATE HITS CYBERSPACE;WEIDER PUBLICATIONS CLOSE TO DEAL

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You wouldn't think there's much synergy between a newspaper syndicate, a publisher of fitness magazines, a New York cultural organization, an infomercial media buyer and an online sports service. But when it comes to the World Wide Web and a maverick multimedia developer called Interactive Connection, all the pieces are falling into place.

The New York Times Syndicate today introduces Computer News Daily, the first of several planned online services from the syndicate (http://www.nytsyn.com).

Weider Publications, publisher of Men's Fitness, Shape and other fitness magazines, meanwhile, hopes to put its first publication on the Web within 60 days.

New York City's Alliance for the Arts this month opens its Web site, a directory of 330 cultural institutions, Broadway theaters and tourist attractions. The site was designed by Chiat/Day, New York, and is sponsored by American Express Corp.

And Williams Television Time, an infomercial media buyer, is creating home pages for its clients, several of which will sponsor a new sports online service called SportsWorld.

All these projects come from the 11-person Interactive Connection, a New York company that has the financial backing of adman Jay Chiat and former American Express Corp. chief James Robinson III.

Interactive Connection is positioning itself as a one-stop shop, creating its own Web sites and sites for clients as well as signing advertisers and developing promotional opportunities that tie the whole package together.

"It's all about meeting the advertiser's needs and meeting the content provider's needs," said Neal Weinberg, president of the 2-year-old company. "The content providers on the Web need to make incremental revenue .... Now you need a company that brings them together [with advertisers] effectively and efficiently."

Computer News Daily will incorporate news stories and features from The New York Times, the Boston Globe and other syndicate members, including the newest member, Bloomberg Business News; columnists, including Microsoft Corp. Chairman Bill Gates; a live chat room; and discussion groups.

The Web version in fact represents a new revenue opportunity for the syndicate. Interactive Connection signed two advertisers to the service, VocalTec, a supplier of telephone technology via the Web, and Next Computer. Each is paying about $30,000 per quarter.

This is the second big piece of Times Co. business for Interactive Connection. The company also manages the Web outpost of TimesFax (http://nytimesfax.com), which opened in February.

Weider, meanwhile, is close to a deal to put several magazines on the Web, starting with Men's Fitness.

"We're going to take the next six to 12 months and test," said Randy Gale, executive producer in charge of new media at the publishing company.

In each of these projects, as well as those for Williams and the Alliance for the Arts, the interactive connection, so to speak, is that creating sites-fast becoming a commodity skill-is only half of it. Selling ads and linking them together is what will make them work.

The alliance's site, for example, will include hot links to the Times Co.'s sites, and vice versa. And like the Times Syndicate, the alliance hopes to make money off its Web site by selling ads (at $20,000 per quarter) to theater groups and tourist attractions.

Interactive Connection is expanding; it recently opened a West Coast outpost-in Williams' Los Angeles offices-headed by VP-Business Development John Bohan, a former account executive at USA Networks in Los Angeles. On Mr.

Interactive Connection knows its long-term future is pegged to doing more than constructing Web sites for others.

The first example of that vision is SportsWorld (http://sportsworld.line.com), Interactive Connection's testbed for a variety of advanced Web techniques.

The service incorporates content from SportsTicker, owned by ESPN. But SportsWorld is a separate entity from ESPN's popular ESPNET SportsZone Web site (http://espnet.sportszone.com), and will compete directly with it.

Users can customize the site to their specifications by checking off categories of information they're interested in, from a particular hockey team's player stats to box scores from that day's baseball games.

The advances aren't without their drawbacks, however; the interface is sometimes awkward, and the site lacks polish, misspelling schedule as "schedual," for one.

Advertisers are buying into the concept, if not the content. Interactive Connection has signed on American Home Products Co.'s Advil (an early Interactive Connection client); three Williams clients (AbFlex and Proform exercise equipment and Philips Media); and one liquor marketer, at $30,000 per quarter.

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