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Edited by Brain Dakss ([email protected])

Sony Bets Portal Will Spur Hardware Sales
Sony hopes to parlay a planned broadband entertainment portal into increased sales of its electronic devices. The company will launch the high-speed Sony Screenblast in the fall, hoping to hook 18-to 24-year-olds on creating and editing videos and music.Using free tools from the portal, consumers will be able to tweak well-known movie, TV, and song clips. Amateurs will also get to edit or remix their own music and videos and store them online for others to view or hear. Once users get more proficient, Screenblast will sell them more-sophisticated software to create movies and songs and post them online; the price is $169 for a full package. Sony hopes that consumers will be inspired to buy digital cameras, wireless devices, PlayStations, and other hardware.But some analysts are skeptical. Says P.J. McNealy, a senior analyst at Gartner, "It's based on the assumption that there are enough digital movies and photos out there and people who will want to do this--but there aren't." --Eileen Colkin ([email protected])

Back To The Future For Old-Line Publisher
The oldest continuously published reference work in the English language, the Encyclopedia Britannica, hopes to succeed where few other publishers have: charging for online content."Until two to three years ago, the company made most of its revenue from one product, the reprinted encyclopedia, and sold it one way--by a salesperson that went into your home," a Britannica.com spokesman says. Now, after concentrating heavily on the Internet without turning a profit on those efforts, Britannica, which hasn't published an encyclopedia since 1998, is returning to its 233-year-old model--charging for its product. The company will begin selling subscriptions for its site later this year, although some content will remain free. Britannica will also broaden its multimedia efforts by increasing available CD-ROM and DVD titles, and will publish paper reference books and a revised edition of the encyclopedia. In addition, Britannica will begin syndicating the 65,000 articles found in its encyclopedia."We had to reinvent the company as a digital publisher," the Britannica spokesman says. "That was absolutely necessary. What it took to do that was such a huge undertaking that it consumed the energy of the company for several years." He says the company is now ready to return to more traditional activities. --Christopher T. Heun ([email protected])

Ad Agency Sees Green In Digitized Commercials
When your customers include the likes of Coca-Cola, McDonald's, and Walt Disney, and competitors are always at your heels, response time could affect your income. That's why the Leo Burnett U.S.A. advertising agency is converting 23,000 commercials to digital format. "Customers ask us to assemble as many as 20 commercials. We used to do that manually, on tape," says Bob Gabriel, manager of Burnett's video facility. That typically took an hour, but it's been cut to 10 or 15 minutes to put them on DVDs, he says.Rick Buesing, a Burnett IT consultant, says such efficiencies won't be the only way digital technology helps the bottom line. "We can do more with DVD authoring so our customers can have random access and jump around the commercial like we do with movies," potentially attracting more clients, he says. Eventually, the agency expects to make interactive commercials that will let TV viewers buy Burnett clients' products directly. --Martin J. Garvey ([email protected])

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