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Milking money out of the Net

Soundtracks, once purely the domain of plays and movies, are among the spinoffs and cross-promotions stemming from the World Wide Web.

You've seen the Web page. Now go get the soundtrack.

That's right. Soundtracks, once purely the domain of plays and movies, are spinning off the World Wide Web. Well, at least one is. Analysts suggest that the idea might catch on as Web sites, which continue struggling to survive on advertising money alone, search for other sources of revenue, even T-shirt sales.

Marinex Multimedia announced today that it is jumping head first into the latest trend of Web marketing by releasing what it is calling the first-ever CD spun off of a Web site, its popular cyber-soap opera, The East Village.

"We're using the Web as a testing ground, creating an audience," said Charles Platkin, president of Marinex and executive producer of the CD, a compilation of music from bands produced under the newly formed label, East Village Records.

"We've tried to establish and pioneer entertainment for the Web," said Platkin. "We hope we'll be paving the way for these kinds of things to happen in the future."

Bruce Guptill, a research director at the Gartner Group market research firm, said he hopes Platkin succeeds. Until now, Web commerce has consisted mostly of online catalogues, but Marinex, which plans a whole line of spinoffs including clothing, movies and even a book, has an idea that might propel a lot of Web developers into profitability, Guptill said.

"This is something that we've been talking about and trying to get a lot of companies to try for the last couple years," he said. "It's one of the first underutilized commercial capabilities of Web sites. Very, very few Web sites actually even attempt to do any kind of cross-brand awareness of marketing and sales."

Companies are hesitant because the medium is still so new. But Guptill says they shouldn't be. The Web, he explains, presents the perfect medium for exactly this kind of commerce with its multimedia potential. "The Web lends itself so well to anything presentation-oriented, whether visual or audio. The technology is so relatively inexpensive that we are continually surprised by how few companies actually effectively use the Web as a marketing and sales channel," said Guptill.

That potential was certainly not lost to Marinex. Marketing products, such as the CD, which features East Village bands and some original music, has been Marinex's strategy from the beginning.

Most Web sites now make their money from advertisers, but the potential for merchandising is virtually limitless if the Web ever takes off as a mass medium, said Platkin.

"Our plan has always been in the next two to five years, [when] the Internet becomes equal or greater to the installed base of television, to create branded media properties that can survive in other media arenas," he said.

The marketing potential certainly won't end with a CD, now available for $11.99 through the Web site and at the usual retail outlets this fall. "We're very close to creating a serialized novelization," Platkin said. "We're close to creating a clothing license. We're trying to take advantage of brand naming."