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Nickelodeon site launches

The market for online services aimed at children heats up with the launch of a Web site from the television powerhouse.

The market for online services aimed at children heated up yesterday with the launch of a Web site from television powerhouse Nickelodeon.

The site, which includes television program listings, games, trivia, jokes, and information on volunteerism, is another example of a media giant using the Web to leverage its entertainment value and cross-promote with television. The Web has been cutting into TV viewing of late, and media companies would prefer to capitalize on the trend rather than suffer as a result of it.

As reported Friday evening by CNET's NEWS.COM, Nick's corporate parent Viacom kept details of the long-awaited launch under wraps, but an executive from Rare Medium, which created the site, on Friday talked about the launch.

The site, combining entertainment with promotion, will be free and will rely on advertising from the Gap, General Mills, and Sony, among others, Rare Medium President Glenn Meyers said. It also will feature advertising from America Online, Meyers said. A Nick site is already hosted by AOL, and that will continue, Meyers said.

"Nick on the Web's" strategy contrasts with the recently launched Disney Daily Blast, a Web-based children's service that costs $4.95 per month, or $39.95 per year. As previously reported, later this year Disney is expected to expand its offerings to include "D-mail," chat, and other interactive features in an online service, probably with "bring your own" Net access. Disney wouldn't comment.

There will be no email or chat on the Nick site; it will feature some interactive features, such as letting children suggest some of the content. One unique feature will let children create their own drag-and-drop icon, such as Superman, that can be used to access the page from their computer screens.

Features include five newly created characters in categories such as games, TV Land (Nick's TV listings), "Big help" (focusing on volunteerism), "Juicy" (jokes and other content), and "magazine" (featuring more Nick content).

Meyers said he thinks the fact that the Nick site is free will make it easier to expand. Disney has advertising as well, but it is separated from the content by "buffer" screens, making the site seem less commercial.

Rare Medium began work on the Nick site last November. It also created the popular "You Rule School" children's site for General Mills.

The online kids' market is poised for rapid growth. By the end of 2002, Jupiter Communications projects revenues of $1.8 billion, up from $306 million this year.

Other newly launched sites include PBS Kids and Noodle Kidoodle.

On Thursday and Friday in San Francisco, Jupiter will hold a "Digital Kids" online conference. It will feature Nickelodeon president Herb Scannell, Yahoo chief executive Tim Koogle, Disney Online president Jake Winebaum, and Time New Media president Linda McCutcheon-Conneally, among others.