Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

MTV Online: Huh-Huh, This Is Gonna Be Cool

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

MTV Online: Huh-Huh, This Is Gonna Be Cool

Article excerpt

When MTV Television rocketed onto the cable airwaves on Aug. 1, 1981, it set out to be mad, bad and dangerous to know.

Video killed the radio star, remember? MTV didn't seek equality with other mediums. It wanted world domination. And in its 13 years, MTV got what it wanted.

The division of Viacom International Inc. co-opted the relatively unheard-of medium of music videos and transformed it into an omnipresent art form that has influenced nearly every aspect of modern culture.

That track record has Internet surfers and business types alike eagerly watching the alliance between MTV and America Online Inc., the computer service subscription network.

The corporate teaming is one of the more formidable in the continuing effort to target the young, generally affluent devotees who use the Internet.

So can MTV do for cyberspace what it did for music video?

Uh, not likely, say most visitors to the MTV Online computer site, which debuted earlier this month.

"Again MTV has reached its ugly tentacles out to our culture with its base, commercial tripe," wrote Bob Kovalchick, an America Online subscriber from Maryland who complained on-line. "Let's make MTV retreat from AOL! We can. So let's pitch in and wipe the corporate propaganda, mind-game, tell-you-what's-cool-to-buy, we're-so-radical, fake crap out of here."

Others were not so eloquent.

Matt Farber, MTV's vice president of programming and new business, said the current incarnation of MTV Online does not represent the network's full-fledged attempt at a computer site. "It's just a test for the summer," Farber said. "It's a summer promotion. In the long term, it will be bigger and better."

Farber said MTV is working with Viacom to develop a more elaborate on-line system. But he said there is no launch date for the new system, and he could not comment on whether other Viacom divisions - including Nickelodeon and VH-1 - would be involved in it.

But for a network that built its image on the punk, in-your-face aesthetic, its experimental computer site is remarkably suited for the parents it seems so intent on shocking.

It's basically a regular computer chat board with the added bells and whistles of MTV photos and schedules available for downloading. And it has a lot of warning signs.

"By communicating with this site, you hereby authorize MTV: Music Television to use any and all materials, communications or other information that you have provided, transmitted or sent to this site in any manner MTV sees fit," reads the opening admonition from one of the MTV systems operators.

By the way, they don't call them systems operators on MTV Online, or even sysops. They're known as on-line jocks - OJs for short - and they have a presence throughout the site. They answer questions, moderate interviews and post discussion topics all with a hip bent. …

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