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Cox Interactive Starts Web Site With Orange County Content

Internet: Cable company seeks to attract online readers with local news, information and entertainment.

April 09, 1998|DARYL STRICKLAND | TIMES STAFF WRITER

IRVINE — Raising the competitive stakes for online readers, Cox Interactive Media launched a new Web site devoted to Orange County news, information and entertainment.

OCNOW.com is Cox's attempt to establish a major online presence here, supplementing the parent company's position as Orange County's dominant cable service.

"We want to be the one place for people to go on the World Wide Web to find out what's happening in Orange County," said Braxton Jarratt, the site's manager. "Our goal is to get more and more local."

Initially, Jarratt hopes readers will download 1 million pages per month, following in the footsteps of the company's first online guide, Access Atlanta, which in just over a year has seen users download 9 million pages per month.

Cox Interactive established similar Web sites in San Francisco in July and San Diego in February. The Orange County site, which debuted Tuesday, is the company's 17th online city guide nationwide.

In joining a crowded fray of information providers, including newspapers and alternative weeklies, broadcast stations and new media ventures, Cox faces an uphill battle against those already established here. Moreover, online city guides--with more than a dozen offered in Southern California--have not yet become moneymakers.

"People aren't looking at short-term profits, they are looking to establish a franchise with staying power," said Mark Mooradian, group director for consumer content at Jupiter Communications in New York. "It's essentially a battle for position right now."

It will be interesting to see who emerges as the victor, existing media companies or newcomers, said John Morton, an analyst who monitors the newspaper industry.

"To some extent," Morton said, "that issue may be decided by who puts up the best information."

Barratt declined to say how much Cox invested in the venture, saying that the company has made a long-term commitment to the Web site. Already, Cox offers more than 250,000 customers in the county high-speed Internet access and phone service as well as digital television packages.

Clicking on the Web site, viewers will find content tailored for Orange County by 20 full-time employees and 30 stringers.

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