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Prize hunters turning to the Internet for cash


Scan the classified ads of large metropolitan daily newspapers, and you may find an ad for someone looking for the winning game pieces of any number of promotional games offered by restaurants, retailers and manufacturers.

And it was only a matter of time before the desire to win the top $1 million prize in McDonald's Disney trivia contest found the potential of the Internet.

And while the winner didn't use the Internet to get the $1 million cash prize, many others used the Internet to find trivia answers, meaning that the restaurant chain probably handed out more free food items that it originally planned to do (The winning card was a sure winner -- all the scratch-off answers were correct).

But by the time McDonald's quit handing game pieces out at end of April, more than a dozen World-Wide Web sites were on line with answers for some of the trivia questions.

Trivia buffs may want to keep their modems ready, because the restaurant chain plans a similar trivia contest for the upcoming Olympics in Atlanta.

For a peek at Web sites with answers to McDonald's Disney trivia contest, visit:




AMERICA ONLINE EXPANDS. America Online Inc. announced this week a joint venture with a Japanese trading firm to create an on-line service for Japan.

The story by Reuters Ltd. said the company is planning an expansion similar to AOL's venture with Bertelsmann, a German media company, in Europe.

Japan's Kyodo News Agency said the venture expects to have more than 1 million subscriptions in Japan over the next two years.

The new service's biggest competitor will be CompuServe's Japanese presence, which has more than one million users.

PRODIGY BUYOUT. Managers within the troubled Prodigy Services Co. are expected to soon reach a deal to buy the on-line services from its present owners, IBM Corp. and Sears, Roebuck & Co.

The service's chief executive, Ed Bennett, was prepared to launch a bid in the range of $250 million last month. Bennett arrived at Prodigy in April last year after transforming the VH1 cable channel into a competitor of MTV.

In the battle for subscribers among the on-line services, Prodigy's share has reportedly been shrinking, especially since Sears announced its intent to sell its 50 percent stake back in February.

Prodigy was created in a joint venture between Sears and IBM Corp. in 1984, and according to recent estimates, has fewer than 1 million subscribers.

IBM and Sears have invested more than $1 billion into the service sine its inception. The CBS television network was an early partner in Prodigy, but later withdrew its interest in the venture.

The rapid growth of the Microsoft Network, along with competition from AOL, CompuServe and direct Internet providers, has pushed Prodigy from its long-held No. 3 spot to No. 4, and could spell a long, troubled road the on-line service's comeback.

WEB DEMOGRAPHICS. The ACNeilsen company's latest survey sheds new light on the demographics of the average user of the World-Wide Web.

While the survey confirmed long-held beliefs about Web users, there were a few surprises.

Most users are young males with higher than average household incomes and education who hold professional occupations.

Households with access to the Internet and on-line services spend more with in categories such as:

  • 25 percent more in music stores;

  • 91 percent more in office supply stores (for floppy disks, I assume);

  • 78 percent more in electronic stores, and;

  • 36 percent more in bookstores.

Spending for groceries didn't vary much between the wired and non-wired households with just a few exceptions:

  • Wired households spent 24 percent more for breakfast foods and 13 percent more on soft drinks, and;

  • Wired households spent 10 percent less on coffee.

More information on ACNeilsen may be found at the company's Web site.

NEWSGROUP OF THE WEEK. For those of you who don't wander the interesting world of Usenet really don't know what you're missing.

Usenet, known to most folks as ``newsgroups,'' are the bulletin board of the Internet.

And the topics for the more than 18,000 newsgroups cover an enormous range of interests and tastes (or lack thereof, in some cases).

I've only visited a few hundred of the newsgroups available through my Internet provider, but there a a few that I regularly return to.

Two are related to my favorite musical group (alt.fan.beachboys, and rec.music.beachboys), while others focus on hobby and professional interests (alt.comp.sys.www.html.authoring, and alt.journalism).

My most recent new discovery in Usenet is the alt.collecting.8-track-tapes newsgroup.

Like many Baby Boomers, I too used to proudly show my friends my extensive collection of 8-track tapes; now, collectors are looking for the really rare ones, and paying some pretty eye-opening prices (if they only collected polyester leisure suits, I'd be rich).

Netiquette in Usenet is similar from newsgroup to newsgroup, but I'd recommend a number of return visits to read the postings before adding a message to any unfamiliar newsgroup.

If your Internet Service Provider doesn't include Usenet in its package, you don't know what you're missing. Nearly all ISPs provide Usenet software (Free Agent, WinVn, etc); otherwise, try shareware.com, or the ZD Net software library. Each is packed with the latest Internet shareware.

Comments and questions about this column may be sent to jbrooks@myoldkentuckyhome.com, or visit www.myoldkentuckyhome.com on the World Wide Web.

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