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Oxygen launches fresh content, services

Oxygen Media gives its Web site a makeover and kicks off a national tour to find out what women really want from Net and television programming.

Oxygen Media gave its Web site a makeover today and kicked off a national tour to find out what women really want from Net and television programming.

The converged TV-Net media company for women is gearing up for the launch of its sister cable channel in February 2000. The women's market online is highly competitive, but on the television side the offerings are thin, with channels such as Lifetime Television and American Movie Classics Romance Classics marketing solely to women.

The new Oxygen online still highlights properties the company bought from America Online, See related newsmaker: Geraldine Laybourne such as Moms Online, Thrive, and Electra, which focus on personal finance, careers, health, and relationships and pull in 57 million page views per month, according to Oxygen. But the site design no longer caters primarily to AOL users.

To compete with sites such as iVillage, Women.com, and ChickClick, Oxygen has added new content, too.

Women Write on the World is a magazine with short stories by well-known writers and weekly political cartoons by Signe Wilkinson.

Another section, O2 Simplify, helps visitors look for a baby-sitter or a new car, organize vacations, or launch a new business.

The site also includes a game section and animated stories about women.

Oxygen.com is expected to be overhauled again when the cable channel launches.

In the meantime, Oxygen has started a Tank Tour to get women's feedback on the type of TV-Net programming they want. Analysts have been pumping Oxygen, and the company founders expect to take Oxygen public.

"We envision Oxygen.com as a breathing space--both playful and serious--that energizes our audience with its content, empowers them with its tools, engages them with its community, and invites them to explore all of the Oxygen Network both online and, starting on February 2, 2000, with our cable network," Oxygen's editor in chief, Sarah Bartlett, said in a statement. "Because Oxygen is being cocreated with its audience, it is a work in progress and always will be."

Although Oxygen was late to the Web, the converged network's founder, Geraldine Laybourne, has attracted entertainment heavyweights and high-tech investors.

Laybourne, who had headed Disney-ABC cable networks and Nickelodeon, has lured partners such as Oprah Winfrey, as well as Marcy Carsey, Tom Werner, and Caryn Mandabach, the creators of the Cosby Show and Roseanne. Silicon Valley consultant Lawrence Wilkinson is vice chairman of the company, and Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen's Vulcan Ventures infused Oxygen with a $100 million investment in June.