AOL offering free samples

April 15, 2004|By Frank Barnako | Frank Barnako,KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

WASHINGTON - America Online plans to offer some of its music, sports and news on the Internet at no charge.

The Time Warner unit is presenting free content, such as a concert by Usher that was available March 23, to encourage sampling.

"This will give people on the Web a glimpse of what they would have had access to if they were members," said Jim Bankoff, executive vice president for programming. Putting content on the Web also gives the company greater opportunity for advertising revenue.

Bankoff said the opportunity to give nonmembers a taste of AOL's content is a result of the service's shift from a proprietary publishing system, known as Rainman, to the Web's standard HTML. "This also makes us able to do a more robust job for our marketing partners, by being able to offer them `standard' ad sizes and rich media," he said. In other words, advertisers can use made-for-the-Web marketing materials on AOL.

Bankoff insisted that the availability of some bits of AOL material on the Internet, at AOL.com, is not a sign of a massive shift in strategy from a subscription service to the open Internet. "My whole purpose is to add programming and to increase the premium value of AOL to its members, especially its broadband users," he said.

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