IT Confidential: Sex Sells, Spider-Man, The Wizard King - InformationWeek
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John Soat
John Soat

IT Confidential: Sex Sells, Spider-Man, The Wizard King

SEX SELLS. Clearswift, a vendor of anti-spam software, says pornography has dropped dramatically as a percentage of unwanted E-mails, but advertisements for libido-enhancing products have increased. Porn represented more than 20% of spam messages two years ago, according to Clearswift's monthly Spam Index, which the vendor has been generating since 2003, but now represents only about 5%. Health-care messages, which translate primarily into promotions for Viagra and similar products, represent 44% of spam, the highest, followed closely by financial offers at 38%. Two years ago, health care and finance together represented only 39% of all spam, according to Clearswift.

SEX DOESN'T SELL. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission last week asking for an investigation into the violent video game "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas," after reports that explicit sexual scenes in the game can be unlocked with a free Internet download (known as "Hot Coffee"). Clinton also said she will introduce legislation that "will put some teeth into video-game ratings" by instituting financial penalties for video-game retailers who sell mature games to minors.

THE WIZARD KING. Have you got your copy of Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince yet? The sixth installment of the hugely popular book series went on sale last weekend. said it had preordered 900,000 copies of the book in the United States alone, and online sales were expected to number into the millions. IBM was making hay last week as the key online-technology provider to Scholastic, the U.S. publisher of the Harry Potter series. Scholastic runs its E-commerce system on IBM's WebSphere Commerce technology. Scholastic helped generate prepublication publicity for the book by sponsoring a "Harry Potter Essay Contest" on its Web site.

MICROSOFT SNARES SPIDER-MAN. Microsoft signed an agreement last week with Marvel Enterprises that gives the Seattle software company exclusive rights to produce massively multiplayer games featuring characters such as Spider-Man, the Hulk, and X-Men. A report on Reuters says the games will start appearing in 2008, designed for Microsoft's Xbox 360, its next-generation game console that was previewed with much fanfare in May and should be available this holiday season.

REPORTING FOR DUTY. Colin Powell, former secretary of state, is now a "strategic limited partner" with the well-known, and highly successful, Silicon Valley venture-capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. Powell will continue to live in Washington but will commute to California on a regular basis and meet with prospective entrepreneurs. "Secretary Powell offers entrepreneurs global strategic insights and wisdom about leadership," said John Doerr, a Kleiner Perkins partner, in a statement.

A little easier than dealing with the United Nations, I'd imagine. But not as easy as appearing on The News Show (Hey, Colin, what d'ya say?). Check it out at, or on Then send me your thoughts--and an industry tip--to or phone 516-562-5326.

To discuss this column with other readers, please visit John Soat's forum on the Listening Post.

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