electricminds backers link online technology and talk

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A new company called electricminds is betting its chat-based site will revive a sense of community on the Web.

"What's driving AOL's traffic? 40% of it comes from e-mail and chat," said Randy Haykin, chief operating officer of the Mill Valley, Calif.-based company.

A paid staff of celebrity-status conference leaders (such as VRML creator Mark Pesce) will run online conversations from around the globe starting next month.

Backers of electricminds include Mr. Haykin, who worked both at Yahoo! and America Online's Greenhouse ventures group; Howard Rheingold, a former Wired editor who serves as the company's publisher-chief creative officer; and Bill Peck, former ad director at Infoseek, who as director of ad sales for electricminds signed U S West as the site's charter sponsor.

Rates are $60,000 for a three-month run that gives the sponsor premium banner positioning but also lets company-affiliated individuals run and participate in chats.

Mr. Peck admits the ad-edit lines will butt heads, but said, "We really think of this not as advertising, but as 'edutizing.' " U S West will likely choose several individuals to participate in branded conferencing online.

Copyright August 1996 Crain Communications Inc.

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