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E-Business Secrets
Brian Livingston

New site launches with more than 198,000 subscribers

A new e-business site will launch today with more than 198,000 subscribers already registered via e-mail. The story of how this was accomplished tells a lot about viral marketing on the Web.


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The site is called CheatCodes.com. It's intended to appeal to teenagers and others who are heavy video game players. Steve Jenkins, CheatCodes' president, bought the name back in 1997 but developed a working home page for the idea only last October.

Jenkins and his small team have spent the past nine months developing content pages for the day the site would go live. Registered users will receive real-time tips like "pick up the key" while they're playing a game online. Jenkins expects the site to earn money from sales of books and products through its newsletter.

While all this was under construction, his home page enticed interested Web surfers into providing their e-mail addresses. Everyone who registered would receive a chance to win a free Sony PlayStation 2 and a notice when the full site was opened. After removing addresses that bounced or opted out when he sent a confirmation message, Jenkins was left with more than 198,000 names.

Where did all these surfers come from? Jenkins used WebTrends.com to analyze his site's logs. The service reported that most visitors found his site using the following search engines:

AOL NetFind (62 percent)

GoTo (8 percent)

Google (7.5 percent)

AltaVista (6.5 percent)

Other (16 percent)

The high percentage from AOL's search engine is consistent with the teenage audience CheatCodes is designed to reach. A further analysis of the search terms used to find Jenkins' site showed that variations of the term "cheatcodes" resulted in the majority of hits:

"cheatcodes" (42 percent)

"www.cheatcodes.com" (13 percent)

"cheatcodes.com" (9 percent)

Other (36 percent)

The large number of users who typed "www.cheatcodes.com" shows that many surfers don't understand the difference between the Address field of their browser and the Search field of a search engine. In any case, with no expenditure for advertising and no search-engine positioning effort, hundreds of thousands of visitors found CheatCodes and many registered their e-mail addresses.

Jenkins has succeeded on the Web before. He founded Windows95.com, which was renamed WinFiles.com and sold to CNET Networks for $11 million in 1999, and Vservers.com, which Micron Technology purchased for $47 million that same year.

The lesson of CheatCodes? A highly valued prize, combined with a Web address that's identical to a term searched for by millions of surfers, can result in a big base of subscribers -- even before a site goes live.

CheatCodes: http://www.cheatcodes.com@54.vg/?3aac

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If you use a Palm handheld, but you're also a Linux aficionado, you'll be interested to know that a Redmond, Wash.-based company is offering a free download of the Linux operating system that's been shrunk to run on Palm hardware.

No, the company isn't Microsoft. It's called Empower Technologies, and its operating system is known as the Linux DA O/S. Two free demo versions are now available, one for the Palm IIIx and IIIxe, the other for the Palm Vx. The demo sports an address book, scheduler, calculator, games, and other programs. The company plans to license SDKs (software development kits) to developers of other applications.

If you just can't get enough of customizing your Palm, now you can really go nuts.

Linux DA O/S download for Palm IIIx, IIIxe, and Vx:


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E-BUSINESS SECRETS: Our mission is to bring you such useful and thought-provoking information about the Web that you actually look forward to reading your e-mail.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: E-Business Secrets is written by InfoWorld contributing editor Brian Livingston. Research Director is Ben Livingston (no relation). Brian has published 10 books, including:

Windows Me Secrets:


Windows 2000 Secrets:


Win a book free if you're the first to send a tip Brian prints. Send to mailto:tips@SecretsPro.com.

Brian Livingston , an InfoWorld contributing editor, has published 10 books, including Windows Me Secrets and Windows 2000 Secrets. Win a book free if you're the first to send a tip Brian prints. Send in your tips today, at tips@secretspro.com.




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