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Industry Standard

Entertainment sites zero in on GenY

September 7, 1999
Web posted at: 3:02 p.m. EDT (1902 GMT)

by Lessley Anderson

(IDG) -- Attracting and keeping the attention of the 16- to 22-year-olds who make up "Generation Y" is an elusive goal. Perhaps less susceptible to mainstream brands than other age groups, GenY Web surfers shop at thrift stores, listen to indie rock and saw the Blair Witch Project before you did. Chances are they find your Web site totally uncool.

Still, a lot of Net companies, especially those offering video and music programming, consider the GenY group a prime market. Forrester Research estimates 12.4 million GenY Web surfers exist. The rewards could be great for sites that can attract these kids.

"If you can build their trust, they will be your champions," says 22-year-old Travis Kalanick, VP of strategy for, which offers a search engine for finding multimedia content online.

Here's a brief look at four content sites that think they can pass muster with Generation Y.
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Spikeradio, which launched August 1, delivers multiple channels of live radio shows from DJs around the globe. Programming is seriously offbeat: A DJ in Los Angeles spins Jewish wedding songs alongside hardcore; an R&B/disco show Webcasts from Paris.

And there are interviews with guests like porn star Kim Chambers and pop singer Seal. Taboo Talk features two twentysomething women talking about sex. The edgy material has not scared off mainstream advertisers; Toyota is a charter sponsor.

A spin-off from Australian ISP Spike Networks, SpikeRadio is banking on its international flavor to give it an edge.

"We don't have that faux internationalism you see with U.S. companies," sniffs Chris O'Hanlon, SpikeRadio's founder and CEO. "We're plugged directly into what's happening in Tokyo and London."

Venice, Calif.-based Wirebreak Entertainment, launching Sept. 9, will offer a slate of quirky, short video programs aimed at 18- to 34-year-olds. Initial shows include a stand-up comic delivering news bits while completing his morning ablutions; Locker Talk, featuring girls talking about boys and sex; and Saul Good, a mostly improvisational, interactive sitcom starring a real-life Venice Beach loony.

WireBreak also relies on humor but takes a less edgy approach than Spike. The shows are safe, not deviant, but WireBreak plans to change shows based on customer feedback. The company also seeks to showcase unknown talent in an area of the site called WireBreak shorts: Users with programming submissions can see their ideas turn into minishows.

WireBreak is run by an impressive mix of traditional and Net veterans. CEO David Wertheimer headed Paramount Digital Entertainment during the studio's stint as a programmer for the Microsoft Network.

Clicking around mp3 download site Epitonic is similar to browsing in a college-town record store. Music reviews on the 6-month-old site, which mostly focus on indie rock and electronica from small labels, are written in a flavorful, sometimes overly descriptive style.

Often, they sound as if they were written in the wee hours by light-starved alternageeks nursing carafes of black coffee in some dorm room. That's not far from the truth. The staff works out of a warehouse in San Francisco though Aaron Newton, Epitonic's 24-year-old president, insists he doesn't ingest stimulants.

Epitonic's trusted-friend style and knack for recommending underground music has won the site a devoted following, handling 500,000 MP3 downloads last month. Its GenY secret lies in grassroots marketing. The company's 12 employees stealth-paste posters and pass out fliers on their nightly jaunts.

Digital Entertainment Network, which went live in May, has served as a litmus test for how to create GenY programming online. The company's mission to create niche programming for underserved youth communities, from Christians to punks comes from Chief Marketing Officer Ed Winter's GenY market-research firm, U-30.

DEN is aggressively seeking attention from the 10 percent to 20 percent of GenY that Winter calls the "golden eyeballs": the kind of opinion leaders who discovered extreme sports. He hires field scouts in urban centers, searching for kids in record stores and cybercafes to give DEN "the barometer" on what's hot.

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