Subscribers to America Online are getting new price options this week, along with souped-up audio and video content designed to appeal to users of high-speed Internet connections.
Among the new pricing plans is a temporary discount, to $9.95, offered to anyone accessing AOL via other Internet service providers. AOL says its "bring your own access" plan will revert back to $14.95 a month at the end of this year.
Active AOL families may be more interested in a new $24.95 rate that allows simultaneous use by up to seven screen names on the same account. AOL's regular $23.90 plan only allows one sign-on at a time per account. Subscribers to the $9.95 bring-you-own-access plan will also be allowed multiple log-ons, an enhancement made possible by the "AOL 8.0 Plus" upgrade AOL is releasing this week.
AOL Time Warner is also yanking People and Entertainment Weekly magazines off the Web and making them available only to AOL and print subscribers. They are the first of 14 magazines that the media conglomerate will no longer offer for free on the Web.
The changes are all part of AOL's grand plan to position itself as more than just a means of Internet access. It wants to be seen as offering exclusive content that's worth a higher monthly bill.
AOL's "8.0 Plus" software includes several upgrades for both broadband and dial-up users. Broadband users will get a new welcome screen along with enhanced parental controls and free access to ABC News Live, the all-news premium video channel that ABC News launched last week. The new software also features a free virus-scanning service for users' e-mail.
Tunes With 'Tude
A music subscription service patterned more after radio than file-swapping debuted on the Internet last week. Chicago-based FullAudio Corp.'s MusicNow offering costs $10 a month for unlimited listening to more than 200,000 songs licensed from all five major record labels.
Subscribers can download an unlimited number of tracks to play on their computers in Windows Media Audio format but must pay 99 cents apiece to burn them onto CDs or play them on other devices. (MusicNow requires a PC running Win 98 SE or newer.)
MusicNow is aimed at older listeners who tend to be employed and busy, according to chief executive Scott Kauffman. He said the target audience is people who want to be entertained but don't want the hassle of hunting for songs with file-sharing software.
MusicNow is fashioned around 36 channels programmed by music experts hired to add personality to song introductions and musical arrangements. The site's interface, however, looks more like a magazine.
Diary of a Despot
War is hell, not humorous, but don't tell some Web-loggers.
"I've been up all night looking for my mustard gas, but for the life of me, I can't remember where I put it," someone posted in "Saddam's Cyber Palace," a satirical Web log cast as the diary of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.
Hussein's virtual double reports that he switched to using smoke signals to communicate with his starving troops after they began eating his carrier pigeons.
Not to be left out, North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il has his own Internet double -- someone writing a satirical Web log that spoofs a running instant-messaging dialogue between "the illmatic" and President Bush.
E-mail Leslie Walker at email@example.com.