Road Runner is taking advantage of advances in its
networking infrastructure to broaden the scope of its appeal on several fronts, including
advertising and user mobility, as well as basic content.
After a long gestation period -- during which the service
provider has been working with advertisers and a variety of support technologies to
fine-tune techniques -- officials are preparing to announce a new affiliation with Intel
Corp. aimed at bringing broadband-enhanced advertising into the mainstream of their
At the same time, the service is set to expand the
availability of "dial-up roaming" to its entire market base, and it will soon
add an Internet-protocol-fax service, Road Runner vice president of product management
Meredith Flynn-Ripley said.
"The improvements in our infrastructure allow us to do
a lot of things that we've been working on for some time," she said. "We have
quite a few initiatives with new partners waiting in the wings while our lawyers finish
work on the contracts."
The dial-up roaming capability -- which allows users to
access e-mail and other Road Runner components while traveling -- is widely seen as vital
to making high-speed-data services more appealing to business users of Internet services.
Until now, this function was only available in a handful of Road Runner markets.
Over the past month or so, several new developments have
come together to signal that Road Runner is ready to move to a new level of support for
broadband-enhanced content and applications.
For example, the company has contracted with Worlds Inc.
for customer access to 3-D virtual environments developed especially for Road Runner, as
well as to other Worlds environments where software used to access the sites is downloaded
directly to users, rather than requiring them to install it from CD-ROMs.
At Worlds' sites -- which are currently devoted to music,
but expanding to other genres soon -- users create their own avatar identities from a
library of characteristics in the software program, "meet" each other and enter
chat sessions, or explore music offerings and purchase merchandise associated with the
The company's broadband-enhanced site will feature video
clips and richer graphics, said Steven Greenberg, a consultant to Worlds. "We should
have shared-state capabilities, which allow users to pick up and manipulate objects,
operational within the next 60 days," he said. "This will support interactive
By making Worlds a channel on its site, Road Runner gives
it much greater exposure than it would have as a stand-alone provider of
broadband-enhanced content, Greenberg noted. This is the portal strength Road Runner hopes
to exploit across a growing lineup of content that will flow over its backbone structure
at speeds much greater than it would over the Internet, Flynn-Ripley said.
Both Road Runner and @Home Network anticipate that this
backbone advantage will make content more appealing to cable high-speed-access users than
it is to high-speed customers of DSL (digital-subscriber-line) providers.
A number of entities have launched backbone systems,
including satellite-delivered media streams, to give Internet-service providers a shot at
competing with the cable services.
Another piece in Road Runner's expanding content portfolio
involves new content being developed by Women.com Networks.
Women.com -- which is partnered with Hearst Corp. and
Rodale Press Inc., publisher of 11 leading women's magazines -- will provide
broadband-enhanced content featuring video interviews with women executives, video
features for children, animated "Best on the Web" guides and other elements for
distribution over the Road Runner backbone, Flynn-Ripley said.
"We're preparing to announce a broad content
initiative that will focus on children, as well," she added.
On the advertising front, Road Runner is moving in tandem
with @Home to throw open the combined market base of some 700,000 cable-data customers to
the advertising capabilities of the broadband infrastructure.
Flynn-Ripley said the company is preparing to announce the
launch of Intel's broadband-advertising program and other initiatives in the weeks ahead,
but she declined to go into details.
Road Runner has already revealed an affiliation with
DoubleClick Inc., a leading provider of ad-targeting and reporting technology that's used
in more than 6,400 Web sites worldwide, according to company figures. This development
complements @Home's use of the "Enliven" technology it acquired with its
purchase of portal Excite Inc.
@Home announced a deal last week with Macromedia Inc. under
which the Enliven technology will be integrated into Macromedia's "Flash" and
"Shockwave" client players, which are now included in all of the Microsoft Corp.
and Apple Computer Inc. operating platforms shipping with new computers.
In addition, the agreement will allow @Home subscribers to
easily access shockwave.com, Macromedia's new Web-entertainment center, which is serving
as a portal for media-rich content.
"The agreement is a good fit because they have the
advertising serving, tracking and delivery mechanisms for rich-media advertising, while we
have the software technology people use for authoring in this space," Macromedia
spokeswoman Andrea Coffey said.
The tight coupling of the software components will give
developers incorporating broadband-enhanced advertising capabilities -- such as 3-D
manipulation of objects and fast-action graphics -- ready access to the administrative
capabilities, she noted.
Road Runner has established its own relationship with
Macromedia through its inclusion of access to "Flash Player" technology on its
user interface, Flynn-Ripley noted. She declined to say whether Road Runner would extend
that relationship into the advertising domain.