America Online seeks 'interactive' services

By Joseph Altman Jr.

Arizona Daily Wildcat

One of the most popular commercial online services, America Online, is trying to improve the waves for its cybersurfers.

AOL is creating a "greenhouse" for the most talented interactive entrepreneurs of the '90s, in an effort to bring "a different kind of blood" into AOL, said Karen Heyman of the Terpin Group, the publicist for the AOL Greenhouse project.

More than 1,000 applications were received from people wanting to set up shop along the information superhighway.

Heyman said that there are a lot of areas on AOL run by standard corporations. NBC, Time magazine and MTV have departments online where people can read articles, download photos and comment on the company's products. For example, people who log on to the NBC area could discuss last week's episode of "Seinfeld."

What AOL is looking for, however, are areas such as "The Motley Fool," which Heyman said has seen an increased amount of traffic from users. She calls it "a mix between the Wall Street Journal and Harvard Lampoon."

Heyman said AOL is now going through the applications, looking specifically for things like "The Motley Fool" that are highly interactive.

"There are a lot of good ideas, but a smaller number have really fallen into the interactive category," she said.

"Break the molds, astonish me,

astonish the members," she said. "We're looking for people who aren't thinking in conventional ways."

Ted Leonsis, president of AOL Services Company, said, "We're looking for the most gifted online talent in the world, period. Whether this means a brilliant freshman at a small college in the Midwest or an established multimedia division of a Silicon Valley company, we are looking to identify the online superstars of tomorrow and reward them."

The reward for the five to 15 people who will be selected is exposure to the more than 1.25 million members of AOL, considerable online promotion and inclusion on what may soon be one of the Internet's hot spots the AOL Web Site.

AOL will also provide some seed capital to help the chosen entrepreneurs begin their venture, Heyman said.

Meanwhile, AOL subscribers are anxious for new interactive services.

Jason Miles, an industrial engineering sophomore, said he likes using AOL for entertainment and news, but he wants more interactive services, like testing and rating new television shows online.

Miles also said he would like to see more shopping opportunities online.

AOL members are able to purchase airline tickets, computer software and even groceries from their computers. Miles said he'd like to see "everything" available online.

"If they advertise more, I'd buy," he said. But he said he wouldn't want to be bombarded by advertising all over AOL.

"Just make it one of the icons or areas, but, yeah, there's definitely a reason to do it," Miles said.

Other members want to see the breadth of information that is available increase.

"I'd like more information on some of the things you can't find out in normal news, like what movie directors are working on," said Dan Deever, a computer engineering freshman.

AOL will announce the chosen applicants this spring, however, a definite date has not yet been set.

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