‘Heavily over-valued and unlikely to meet profit projections’, Internet stock may be, according to Rupert Murdoch but this has not deterred the media mogul from following the herd onto the free Internet gravy-train. LineOne, the UK Internet service owned jointly by News International with BT and United News & Media, is to emulate Dixons’ and Tesco in offering ‘free’ access to the web. In one of the largest ever joint newspaper promotions, up to six million readers of The Express, The Sun and The Sunday Times received a free LineOne start-up pack and CD-Rom. At the same time, LineOne has axed its monthly subscription charge, which varies from £5-£15 according to usage. It has attracted only around 100,000 subscribers – negligible alongside market leaders FreeServe and AOL, respectively claiming 900,000 and 500,000 users. LineOne believes that by ‘leveraging its media assets’ it can make a killing with online advertising and sponsorship deals. In one respect, if no other, it has a clear edge on the Dixons and Tesco offerings: in addition to providing a free gateway to the Net, it also offers editorial content, including access to the many publications owned by News International and UN&M.
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