Sputnik already has an edge up on success with a low-risk business plan: it acquires its content for free. Sputnik 7 has developed alliances with around 40 labels that will allow the site to air their music and videos free of charge. It's pure promotional symbiosis.

After all, Sputnik 7 has collateral. On top of the obvious marketing opportunities, there's the aggregate research that has been used to develop intricate preference profiles of members, which, as Bluetape president Les Garland put it, "is far more valuable [to artists and music labels] than data gathered on any phone call, survey, focus group, or auditorium study." The user's immersive entertainment experience— rating and critiquing the video, artist, and album while watching a constant stream of sexy videos— will generate top-dollar market research.

But for all Sputnik's big plans, it may turn out to be too late to the game. The site aims to accrue as wide a range of music as possible, and that includes the scores of garage bands starved for exposure. This indie market has already been successfully tapped by IUMA (iuma.com), Internet Underground Music Archive, founded in 1993, which provides services to over a thousand independent artists to promote and distribute their work. On Sputnik, the unknown have the opportunity to eventually appear in the same venue as the well-known, but you have to wonder who'll choose to listen to amateur tracks when somewhere else on the site Courtney Love is knocking around her fake tits— or Marilyn Manson his.

Nor is Sputnik the first music site to come up with a collaborative filtering system. Firefly, the pioneer of agent software, started out as RINGO, a profile-ready, music- recommending application, which was purchased by Launch.com in '97. Launch now has over half a million members, which may have as much to do with its vast amount of original content— news, reviews, columnists— as it does with its agent software. And Launch announced Monday that it will acquire MusicVideos.com, which itself has 550,000 registered users.

But Sputnik is a shrewd marketing scheme— which means it might achieve the success of video-only MTV. Let's just hope it doesn't become a model for the online content industry the way its namesake did for the space industry. We might end up with an onslaught of high-revenue Web sites that deal entirely in recycled promotional material. —Amanda Griscom

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