Internet Content West: Interactivity Is Key

LOS ANGELES (07/12/2000) - Enhancing the level of interactivity on the Internet as way of improving Net content was the most repeated assertion during the two-day Internet Content West Conference here.

The Internet is going through an explosion of business, applications and content. However, Net content can't properly develop without having an interactive and proactive relationship with customers, Jake Winebaum, cofounder of eCompanies LLC and former chairman of Walt Disney Co.'s Buena Vista Internet Group, said here during a keynote speech.

The Internet should be seen as a two-way mechanism to filter content and build an audience, Winebaum said. As opposed to traditional media, interactivity between companies and their customers is key to facilitate the necessary feedback to both enhance a Web site's content and improve its business transactions, he added.

As an example of interactivity on the Net, Winebaum pointed to the development of Icebox, an animated cartoon site where eCompanies partners with storytellers. The writers see the site as an opportunity to display pieces of their work which, for a variety of different reasons, was rejected by traditional media.

The story writers have equities in Icebox and before the end of the year will be able to interact with visitors to the site about story ideas. "Writers will develop their content and consumers will evaluate it," said Winebaum. The site is planning to air some 100 stories by the end of this year, he added.

Technology and content still suffer from the limitations dating back to traditional media, according to Jim Banister, former executive vice president of Time Warner Inc.'s Entertaindom.com. He was speaking during a keynote speech here for some 200 attendees at the event, most of them representatives of startup operations.

"In traditional media, consumers have been relegated and feedback is very weak, while in networked media, consumers should have the potential to act as producers, marketers and distributors," Banister said.

Web sites should develop a new language for creative, native programming, which he considered a wider concept compared to content. "Head, heart and crotch are the three ways to reach a consumer's wallet," he said. To reach the heart, networked media has to be nonlinear, mutable, interactive and community-driven, he added.

"There is still a gold rush over the Internet and I foresee that ten years from now is the appropriate time to reach a nimble and creative (level of) content," said Mark Sauter, cofounder and chief operating officer of crimes, justice and safety news Web site APB Online Inc.

Speakers here agreed that the development of infrastructure and the necessary expertise to enhance content, which has to be compelling and proprietary, is not a trivial matter.

Business-to-consumer sites are more advanced in content infrastructure, but B2C sites can learn more about the need to specialize from business-to-business e-commerce sites, panelists said.

For further information on Internet Content West, visit http://www.internetcontent.net/.

APBnews.com, principal operating division of APB Online, in New York, can be reached at http://www.apbnews.com/. eCompanies, in Santa Monica, California, can be reached at http://www.ecompanies.com/.

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