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New content service for ISPs

A new service allows ISPs to offer consumer-oriented information, the latest to help Net providers distinguish themselves from rivals.

A new service that allows ISPs to offer consumer-oriented information to their subscribers goes live this week, coming as many Internet access providers try to differentiate themselves from their larger rivals and online services like America Online or Microsoft Network.

Planet Direct, a new subsidiary of online and direct marketing company CMG Information Services (CMGI), has signed up 71 ISPs for the service, including Erol's Internet and IDT.

CEO Hans Hawrysz described advertising-supported Planet Direct, which has been in a public beta testing since March, as seeking to provide consumer content that is relevant, localized, and easy to use. "One of the characteristics of the service is fairly detailed information on 400 cities, with in-depth information on 128," he said.

CMG owns a controlling interest in search engine Lycos and has invested in other Internet businesses, including GeoCities and Vicinity.

"ISPs have thought of themselves as being in the business of providing connectivity and customer service," Hawrysz said. "They are recognizing that they are in the business of providing a valuable online experience."

Earlier today, CNET: The Computer Network announced its own consumer-oriented service, called Snap Online, which also will be marketed through ISPs.