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Prodigy building empire on Web

Prodigy is quickly making itself over as an Internet online service and is planning to acquire and build new Web sites.

LOS ANGELES--Just as Prodigy changes hands, the proprietary online service is quickly making itself over as an Internet online service and is planning to acquire and build new Web sites to broaden its content offerings.

One of its initial forays into Web publishing is Stim, a cyberculture Webzine geared towards Generation X users launched by Prodigy today at the Electronic Entertainment Expo here. The site is independent of the Prodigy service.

Prodigy's plan calls for moving all its services to the Web by the fall. According to Prodigy officials, the company will also acquire existing Web sites and develop new ones that have a separate brand identity from Prodigy. The company hasn't decided whether it will eventually aggregate them all under a single for-pay Web site or leave them as stand-alone sites.

"We don't want to point anymore; we want to own," said Prodigy spokeswoman Carol Wallace.

Prodigy, which was acquired from IBM and Sears, Roebuck last weekend in a management buyout, has not finalized pricing for the new Web-based Prodigy service.

Stim is free to Web surfers, at least initially. The site represents an editorial departure for the family-oriented Prodigy--the first issue includes a road test of herbal speed products--and the first to use Internet media technologies such as RealAudio and Shockwave.

Similarly, the Web version of Prodigy will feature the latest media technologies, including VRML and Java, which users will be able to access through browsers and plug-ins.

"The new service will be designed the way you bought a stereo in the '70s, with components," Wallace said. "It'll have Shockwave, chat, Java on it."