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E-Business Secrets

Report from content conference reveals tricks of trade
How to make money off a content-only site

By  Brian Livingston July 16, 2002  

When you assemble in a single room the publisher of WSJ.com, the marketing director of ConsumerReports.org, and the programming VP of RealNetworks, you're going to hear some dramatic and revealing words about what works and doesn't work in e-commerce.


These sites are some of the largest content-sellers on the Web. The executives named above are just some of the luminaries who shared their tricks at ContentBiz.com's "Selling Subscriptions to Internet Content Summit" on May 21.

Now, for those who didn't make it to the event, ContentBiz has released the complete text and every PowerPoint slide of all 11 speakers.

Neil Budde of WSJ.com -- owned by The Wall Street Journal -- explains in his section of ContentBiz's printed, bound report how the decision was made to require registration as far back as 1995. He considers this key to the site's success, with 640,000 paying subscribers.

Consumer Reports' Michelle Rutkowski notes that many people don't realize that the nonprofit group's site is one of the most extensive subscriber-paid sites, with 886,000 dues-paying viewers.

Scott Ehrlich of RealNetworks describes how SuperPass, RealNetworks' $9.95-per-month video and audio feed of sports and other content, has managed to attract more than 600,000 subscribers, making it the 11th largest cable operator in the United States (if it were a cable operator).

You might think material like this would be ideal as an e-book or an online series of pages, but it's not. Weighing in at more than 250 printed pages, the printed book makes available a wealth of insider information -- including pointed questions from the audience and the answers provided by the experts -- that you'd never sit still for on a computer screen.

It's an expensive read at $199, but I predict that you'll find yourself sitting down and learning something in your first session that will help your own e-commerce site make more money. The text is printed in an unfortunate choice of Courier, and the slides are grouped at the end of each section instead of interspersed throughout. But I found I could extract tons of "meat" from this book by simply reading all the slides first, then going back to the text to catch any tips I missed.

ContentBiz editor Anne Holland says the next conference is scheduled for May 2003 in New York. There's no sense waiting for that, however, when you can get the best of today's e-business advice today.

"SELLING SUBSCRIPTIONS TO INTERNET CONTENT": http://www.sherpastore.com http://bri.li/?4e63

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A desktop publishing guru has come out with a bare-bones service for Webmasters who want to allow end-users to edit their Web pages without giving them access to the underlying HTML code.

Daniel Will-Harris, co-author of "Ventura Tips & Tricks" (Peachpit Press), is behind EditMySiteOnline.com (EMSO), which acts at the user interface for the new service.

If users need to edit only one page, an EMSO account is free, including 250KB of image space. If you need more space, you can link to images stored on your own Web server for free. Prices for additional pages range from $9.95 per month for two pages to $199 per month for 100 pages. You can also re-brand and re-sell the service.

EMSO competes with numerous build-your-own-Web-site offerings, such as Homestead.com. But Will-Harris says these services don't give Webmasters the ability to assign different pages to different people or to allow users to edit only a portion of a page. EMSO subscribers can also "roll back" to any of the last five versions of a page in case of disaster.

Asked for comment, Homestead.com's director of communications, Joshua L. Weinberg, said, "We can allow advanced functions such as guest books and forms without the user having to worry about loading and linking to scripts, etc. As you mentioned we do not have 'content management' tools."

In my tests, the EMSO editor handled HTML code well but could not correctly process JavaScript or Cascading Style Sheets. If you can make a simple Web site without these technologies, EMSO could be a big help for your end-users.

EDITMYSITEONLINE.COM OFFERS END-USERS HANDS-ON EDITING: http://www.editmysiteonline.com http://bri.li/?7573

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1. DrKoop.com, once worth $1 billion, sold for $186,000 http://www.nandotimes.com http://bri.li/?42b

2. Yahoo's changing words in text of e-mails is knocked http://www.ntk.net http://bri.li/?813

3. Tips on improving information retrieval at your site http://www.firstmonday.org http://bri.li/?bfb

4. Video recorders for PCs are joined by Eye TV for Mac http://www.news.com http://bri.li/?fe3

5. Computer data is enough to design a virus life form http://www.sciencenews.org http://bri.li/?13cb

6. Programmers create methods to avoid Net censorship http://news.bbc.co.uk http://bri.li/?17b3

7. The latest list of cool Web sites under 5KB of code http://www.textbased.com http://bri.li/?1b9b

8. Out of design ideas? Try this student's experiments http://www.webmasterbase.com http://bri.li/?1f83

9. HTML tips: Work around font-sizing bugs in browsers http://www.diveintomark.org http://bri.li/?236b

10. SMS messages get big (45 million per day in U.K.) http://www.wired.com http://bri.li/?2753

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Rinkworks.com is doing a great service for us all by keeping a list of warning labels printed on various products. You, yourself, may need to post a warning label on your Web site, such as one of the following:

"Do not look into laser with remaining eye." -- On a laser pointer.

"Not suitable for children aged 36 months or less." -- On a birthday card for a 1-year-old.

"You could be a winner! No purchase necessary. Details inside." -- On a bag of Fritos.

And I happen to KNOW this one applies to YOUR Web site:

"Optional modem required." -- On a computer software package.

There's too much good advice, you'll just have to see the rest of it yourself. You can't make this stuff up.

RINKWORKS.COM PRESENTS WARNING LABELS YOU MAY NEED: http://www.rinkworks.com http://bri.li/?c393

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E-BUSINESS SECRETS: Our mission is to bring you such useful and thought-provoking information about the Web that you actually look forward to reading your e-mail.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: E-Business Secrets is written by InfoWorld contributing editor Brian Livingston (http://SecretsPro.com). Research director is Vickie Stevens. Brian has published 10 books, including:

Windows Me Secrets: http://www.amazon.com http://bri.li/?0764534939

Windows 2000 Secrets: http://www.amazon.com http://bri.li/?0764534130

Win a gift certificate good for a book, CD, or DVD of your choice if you're the first to send a tip Brian prints. Mail to: Brian@SecretsPro.com.

Brian Livingston is publisher of BriansBuzz.com. Send tips to him at brian@briansbuzz.com.

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