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A new online network launches dedicated exclusively to mysteries, another sign of the growing popularity of "narrowcasting" for luring special-interest audiences and advertisers to the Net.

A new online network was launched today dedicated exclusively to mysteries, another sign of the growing popularity of "narrowcasting" for luring special-interest audiences and advertisers to the Net.

The Mystery Network is dedicated to "everything mystery." It features three Web sites: one with a three-times weekly mystery case, one on the history of the mystery, and another on a list of mystery bookstores nationwide. They all are built around the Mystery Network brand name.

"The Case," site offering a weekly murder mystery, was launched in January, but now it's part of the Mystery Network group of sites.

Why choose mystery, rather than, say, sports (like ESPN) or entertainment (like AOL or the newly relaunched MSN)? Because mystery lovers and mystery book collectors are a literate, tightly-knit and often affluent group, an ideal Web demographic for advertisers. The tightly focused demographics often can command ads at higher rates than with more broad-based content providers, according to the site's developers. For example, Mystery Network includes a well-read ad from Hasbro for the Clue board game, said Steve Schaffer, an executive for Newfront Communications, the company that developed the network.

Other opportunities include ads related to vacations, TV shows, and movies involving mysteries. ("Whodunnit" vacations--where people go to a country inn and watch a make-believe murder take place and then try to solve it--are a growing market segment.)

As for the Hasbro board game ad, Schaffer said it has received as many as ten times more "click-throughs" than the average online ad.