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MSN hits new note: rock

As far as MSN is concerned, it's only rock 'n' roll. That's why it will launch an online serialization of a rock history book, The Mansion on the Hill.

As far as Microsoft Network is concerned, it's only rock 'n' roll.

That's what Microsoft's online service is giving subscribers in its latest deal to entertain them. On January 16, MSN's Music Central will launch an online serialization of Fred Goodman's book The Mansion on the Hill: Dylan, Young, Geffen, Springsteen, and the Head-On Collision of Rock and Commerce.

Goodman, who has covered music for 20 years and has been a magazine editor at Billboard and Rolling Stone, said he wanted his work to be the first general-interest book serialized online.

Anyone on the Net can get a meaty synopsis of the material, but only MSN members will be able to read the entire multimedia feature, a move designed to keep the online service's Net community at home as other entertainment offerings proliferate.

Mansion on the Hill chronicles the rock 'n' roll scene from the 1960s to the present, including more than 200 interviews with musicians such as Bob Dylan and the Eagles. It also looks at the evolution of the billion-dollar music business.

MSN is working with Times Books, a division of Random House, to launch the feature in conjunction with the release of Mansion on the Hill next month. Music Central will present the serial over four weeks.

Sam Sutherland, senior editor for Music Central, said visitors can expect to find the same amount of text from Goodman's book as they would in a traditional magazine excerpt, 8,000 to 10,000 words. The serial will also include artist biographies, song clips, and interview sound bites.

Sutherland said the integrity of the book will not be overshadowed by the bells and whistles of the Net. "This is the first chance Music Central has had to honor the original text product and enhance it with multimedia. On the same token, we don't want to necessarily drown it in a multimedia experience that detracts from the actual content."

For Music Central, the project is a way to gain credibility on the Web. "The first step in creating legitimacy is to go out and find authors of the caliber of Fred Goodman and to compensate them accordingly," Sutherland added.

Goodman, who is also a frequent contributor to Music Central, said he believes that working with MSN on the project will help him control electronic usage of his work.

"I hope my arrangement with Microsoft will demonstrate to other writers that there is no reason for them to give their rights away and that it will give traditional publishers pause," he stated in today's release.

MSN's online service includes proprietary entertainment content, online shopping, travel planning, and the MSNBC news service. The MSN interactive entertainment area, OnStage, has six channels to choose from. MSN entered the market this year to compete with veterans like America Online and Prodigy.