I'm not a regular online surfer. When I do go online, my first priority is to send and answer e-mail. Then, in the few remaining minutes that I can spare, I try to keep an eye on breaking news.
I feel that I'm surrounded by enough Twin Cities media that I don't want to go looking for it online as well.
My first stop on this tour was the Minneapolis Star Tribune. It may well have been the first and last time I visited that site. Even with a 28.8 modem, it was very slow to download.
ON THE EDGE
My next stop was the home page for the Edge, KEGE, which bills itself as Minnesota's "New Rock Alternative" station.
Clearly, I wasn't the target demographic for this page. Just like the loud, head-banging music the station usually plays, the home page itself was filled with Gen X angst and hype.
But for those in the right demographic, the site offers games, information about musical artists and a virtual mall. There's also a few unusual features: an online auto showroom and an in-depth job-hunting resource.
Hitting another demographic entirely is the brand-new site for Radio AAHS, a station just for kids. After hearing a promo for it while driving in the car with my 5-year-old son, I decided to check the site.
It looks like the radio sounds--it's bright, it's cheerful, it's fun. It has many of the features, like Homework Helper, that appear on the air.
It's something I'm sure my son, who listens to the radio station, will enjoy.
Continuing my tour of local sites, I clicked onto Channel 4000, the Web site of WCCO-TV, WCCO radio, Mpls.St.Paul Magazine, Twin Cities Business Monthly, the Midwest Sports Channel, Minnesota Sports, Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Zoo and Employment Weekly.
I'd been hearing about this site for more than a year during every nightly 10 p.m. newscast of Channel 4. It always sounded interesting, but again, I never thought there was anything posted on the site that merited my stopping by.
If first impressions are everything, the rapidity with which graphics and text appear makes Channel 4000 a winner.
The site is chatty and neighborly, with a lot of information packed into a bright, fast-paced format.
Within minutes, I easily cruised through the weather (sunny and 70), the latest news about the flooding in Minnesota's Red River Valley (the big cleanup) and on up to Rebecca's Garden (get out in the garden but don't rush to plant this weekend). Then I clicked on a companion site for the Minnesota Zoo for the latest scoop on its marine animal facility.
My total cruise time: maybe 7 minutes, and that included waiting for pages to download.
"We want to position ourselves as the local channel," said R.T. Rybak, publisher and general manager of Channel 4000, which claims to have more than 2 million visits per month to its site.
OUT FOR PROFIT
As for ad revenue, Web sites like Channel 4000 and the Edge are clearly in it for the bucks. The Edge even lets visitors know, with a button on its home page, how to advertise. The site carries banner ads from marketers including Sterling Optical and Excell Paging.
The Edina, Minn.-based company that oversees Channel 4000, Internet Broadcast System, claims to have attracted about 20 local advertisers and a few national ones like AT&T Corp. and Florists' Transworld Delivery Service.
Conversations with Twin Cities Web executives lead me to believe that while there are plenty of attempts to make local home pages a final destination for Web cruisers, the picture of the Internet consumer is still fuzzy.
"The industry is evolving so quickly that the winners are those who understand not only where they are today, but have a vision of where they want to go tomorrow," said Charles Wilson, director of interactive media at Martin/Williams, Minneapolis.
I'm still not going to be a regular local online surfer--I just don't have the time. But I have to admit, now that I've gotten over the hump and visited these sites, I'm a lot more likely to go back.
Copyright May 1997, Crain Communications Inc.