Culture

Suck can't pay the bills

I like surprises when I read books, but not when I read my phone bills. The other day, I noticed that someone in my house had been racking up hefty long distance calls to Moldova. "Vermel!" I shouted. "What have you been up to?" The kid claimed ignorance, but it looks like he was duped while trying to download dirty pictures from the Net. His computer is now so heavily fortified with filtering software that he can only access Disney.com.

I like surprises when I read books, but not when I read my phone bills. The other day, I noticed that someone in my house had been racking up hefty long distance calls to Moldova. "Vermel!" I shouted. "What have you been up to?" The kid claimed ignorance, but it looks like he was duped while trying to download dirty pictures from the Net. His computer is now so heavily fortified with filtering software that he can only access Disney.com.

Paying bills sucks, especially if you're Suck.com. Apparently, the Sucksters have been having so much fun lampooning their fellow Web sites that they spaced out paying the renewal fee for their domain name. As a result, the InterNIC has put the Suck.com domain on hold until they cough up the change.

One of my spies said a Suck.com employee was forced to float the renewal on his personal plastic. But as of last night, I still couldn't access the site. The InterNIC may be partly at fault; the company has a terrible record of issuing bills to its domain name registrants.

But the domain name renewal snafu may be indicative of a larger mess in the accounts-payable department at Suck.com and its parent, HotWired. The company recently laid off the person in charge of paying the bills. Freelance writers for HotWired are also feeling the pinch of late checks. Unlike the InterNIC, they can't revoke their articles.

From deadbeat domain registrants to deadbeat demographics: PC Week has decided to snuff PC Week Inside, a "demographic" insert of the print edition of the magazine aimed at high-tech big wigs. Inside hung on for a few years, but apparently advertisers never took the bait. The magazine is now busy shifting bodies, including Inside editor Patrick Houston, over to Ziff-Davis Net News, where editors will be transformed into "online producers."

Speaking of online news, News Corp. may not be able to buy PointCast but they're doing their best to buy talent for their Internet news site. My moles tell me that the company is desperate to hire reporters and software developers to beef up its Web site before MSNBC and CNN leave them completely in the dust. Name your price.

Enough media madness! I dispatched one of my New York spies to a hip Tribeca cafe to cool off from his underground work this week. Lo and behold, my agent sat down next to Jaron Lanier, the dread-locked virtual reality pioneer. In between sips of cappuccino, Lanier talked about his plans to start a new company but he's not sure were the money is going to come from. Options include putting some property in hock. I wonder if he's come up with a business plan yet, or if that's still virtual? Virtual rumors do me no good. Email me something concrete right away.