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Electronic Newsstand is dressing up its act and catching the eye of some blue-chip advertisers in the process.

The nearly two-year-old Internet service, offering magazine and newsletter subscriptions, has added Visa/PLUS International and Fidelity Investments as sponsors after upgrading and redesigning its World Wide Web site (http://www.enews.com).

The moves are both a reaction to the January launch of Hearst Corp.'s Multimedia Newsstand (http://mmnewsstand.com) and an attempt by Electronic Newsstand to tap the stream of advertising dollars beginning to flow to media Web sites.

Electronic Newsstand's core service remains text-based listings of stories and subscription offers from some 280 magazines, most of them niche titles.

But the service's Web home page now includes bright graphics, and its new ad programs are aimed at marketers with Web sites. Early Electronic Newsstand advertisers such as Ford Motor Co.'s Lincoln-Mercury and Toyota Motor Sales USA posted text-based information services with no multimedia bells or whistles.

"There finally seems to be some advertising money in the pipeline and .... hopefully we're at the forefront of thinking about how publishers can make money from this [online] model," said Jeffrey Dearth, founder and CEO of Electronic Newsstand and president of New Republic.

Electronic Newsstand has split its magazine listings into 13 categories, including automotive, business, computers, entertainment, sports and travel. It will sell up to 10 logo positions on each topic page and up to five logos on its home page. Each logo will link to a marketer's Web site.

Visa/PLUS' ATM locator (http://www.visa.com/visa/locator/atm_region.html) will be available through a the travel area, while Fidelity's link (http://www.fid-inv.com/) will be on the home page.

Ad rates are $825 per month for a home page link and $450 a month to sponsor a topic page.

A second advertising package, the Advertising Pod Program, allows Electronic Newsstand publishers to sell up to 10 logo positions on their own Web pages, which Electronic Newsstand will build. Business Week, Discover and The Economist have already agreed to participate in that program, and Mr. Dearth said Business Week has already lined up a hotel and an airline as sponsors.

Hearst's Multimedia Newsstand is not ad-supported, but it has caught the eye of other major publishers. The site now sells subscriptions for 440 magazines.

Mr. Dearth said Electronic Newsstand is not yet profitable because significant investments have been made to expand and upgrade the operation. His current business plan calls for the service to be in the black within nine months.

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