Strange New World: Picks of the Week

In what could turn into the throwback tech pick of the week -- if not the year -- it looks like 100 percent free online music is making another run at the big time. Almost six years to the day after the original oh-so-cool Napster was sent to the tech woodshed, a well-hyped new free music site dubbed SpiralFrog is attempting to make money in the digital music business the old-fashioned way: from advertising.

And speaking of advertising, it looks like social networking sites such as MySpace will start rolling out so-called targeted advertising soon. Ads will be delivered to MySpace users based on their personal information. Yes, this is an innovation ... an innovation in creepiness.

And we went green for our final pick: what's hot in the cool fuel cell symposium in London.

Here, then, are our picks for the week.

Spiralfrog Takes Fresh Leap Into Free Music Online

Ever since the demise of Napster, the music industry has been searching for the "digital holy grail" -- a music download site that, while free to download, will still pay the rent of artists and record company execs. Spiralfrog.com just might be what the industry has been waiting for. The new Web site plans to make all its money from ad revenue and then -- gasp -- share it with the music industry.

All sides may at last have found a business model: Because the music industry is getting paid, it has no problem providing content. Consumers get what they want -- tons of free music. And artists get the exposure that only free viral marketing can provide.

Spiralfrog now has a library of 800,000 songs and 3,500 music videos, with more planned for later. And from what we can see, the thing is not a subscription-based site like Rhapsody. There is no monthly fee and you can keep your music.

Our advice: Get to Spiralfrog as fast as you can and download as much as you can. We are not predicting disaster, but sites like this tend to come and go ... you know what we mean?

'New Message From MySpace: Rupert Wants to Add You as a Friend'

When News Corp. paid a boatload of money for the social networking site MySpace, we wondered how exactly ol' Rupert was going to get his money's worth. Looks like we finally have an answer: extremely tailored marketing. Over the next few months the site will roll out ads specifically targeted at each individual MySpace user.

Specialized algorithms will search each member's profile, cook up all of that personal data and send each user specific ads. News Corp. hopes that the plan will make the company even richer: Revenue estimates are in the range of $40 million to $70 million a month. Not chump change.

There are upsides to this new technology -- users eventually may get to use the categorized information themselves. If you have a punk band in Seattle and are going to have a show, you might be able to send out a note to all punk fans in your area.

But at least for now, the move is ominous. MySpace is an intensely cluttered environment already. We can only image what happens to your page once personal data mucks up the marketing mix.

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