12th March 1997
Springboard to fun and family games
Nicholas Booth on a new venture in entertainment and information
Springboard, the joint venture between News International, owner of The Times, and BT, today launches LineOne, intended as a mass-market Internet service which will be easy to use and aimed squarely at the family.
“For the same price as net access, you get great and exclusive content.” says Christopher Lloyd, editorial director of the service. “It’s personalised and interactive. It will also be fast, there’s great customer support and it will be safe for families.”
The service will carry news and sport 24 hours a day, with bells and whistles added to the existing Times web site, plus links to all other News International titles including, for the first time, The Sun and News Of The World.
There will be more interactivity than on existing newspaper sites, including games for the family. Other content will include Sky Television and HarperCollins materials, as well as a unique 24 hour newsdesk.
Each newspaper will appear at 6am and throughout the day there will be regular updates via the Sky News site which will provide video and and audio links to articles, as well as an updated news database which will be fed via the UK news service Press Association.
LineOne will boast the most comprehensive weather service in Britain. Lloyd says it will also be the most interactive, carrying a five-day forecast for 400 weather “spots” around Britain.
Other unique content will be a listings service called Stepping Out which will carry details of events tied in to all 13 ITC regions. Staying In will have similar events for TV, radio and cable.
Connect is a web guide upon which the easiest-to-use search engines can be bolted. Family Fun carries GameWave, a review of all the latest games, news and reviews while Out Of This World concerns a mystic background and will be personality-led – fans of Uri Geller or Mystic Meg will find it to their liking.
Kazoo is designed for children, has a homework helper and uses fact-finders from HarperCollins. MoneyMinder will provide inforrnation from specialist monetary organizations thanks to an across-the-board deal with PA.
Searching will be done by The LineOne Agent, intelligent agent technology based on Autonomy proprietary software, and search for relevance in related topics.
“It is unique,” says Andrew Burke, managing director of LineOne. “It understands what a user is reading and suggests links to relevant content within LineOne content.”
An example would be if you read about a forthcoming classical concert in The Times Directory pages the agent would bring up a profile of the conductor, articles relating to the composer, the full ticketing arrangements for the concert and, indeed, a link to order the tickets.
Lloyd says the emphasis will be on “community” – with special mail and newsgroups, including chatlines and auditorium lines. For those worried about their children accessing some inforrnanon, each account will be split into four separate sub-accounts and registered users will have access control. Children will be prevented from accessing some content should their parents deem it necessary.
Springboard was set up last November and today the company employs more than 60 people including a dozen or more who will work on the “live” desk, updating the information content.
The launch comes at a time when the honeymoon period for the multimedia industry is over: a number of companies have retrenched their activities, including News International which closed its CDRom publishing division last month.
Lloyd, however, remains upbeat. “The concept of real-time, interactive, low-bandwidth electronic dissemination via the PC is unstoppable, relentless and exciting,” he says. “In so many ways, we are entering uncharted territory. We’re determined to make it a success.”
For further information, telephone 0800 111210 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Andrew Burke and Christopher Lloyd of the new LineOne service…
and star turn Mystic Meg
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