Southam- Prodigy go on-line

A joint Southam-Prodigy Services venture is under way to bring America's largest on-line consumer service to Canada.Louise Adams, group vice-president, Southam Information and Technology Group, says an evaluation of the Prodigy service in Canada will take a two-pronged approach.Adams says the...

A joint Southam-Prodigy Services venture is under way to bring America’s largest on-line consumer service to Canada.

Louise Adams, group vice-president, Southam Information and Technology Group, says an evaluation of the Prodigy service in Canada will take a two-pronged approach.

Adams says the first is a national study in English and French to determine what Canadians want from a Canadian Prodigy service.

The second is a live market test in this country using the American Prodigy service to gauge Canadian consumers’ reaction to going on-line.

Adams says Southam, because of its newspaper and magazine publishing experience, has a ‘deep and local understanding of Canadians.’

She says Southam wants to dispense with ‘the gross assumption a Canadian equals an American’ when supplying goods and services.

She says it is hoped the study and the market test will be started as soon as possible, by this September at the latest.

However, Adams cautions Southam and Prodigy Services are still in the early stages of developing the program, adding the city for the live market test has not yet been selected.

Asked if there are enough Canadians with modem-equipped home computers to make Prodigy a success, Adams says she thinks so but explains the Southam study and market test will find out for sure.

Adams says that although it is true fewer than one-third of all Canadians have a home computer, market penetration is growing about 20 % a year and the evidence suggests in five years anywhere from 60% to 80% of Canadian households will have a home computer.

Peggy Miller, Prodigy Services’ associate general counsel and director of business affairs, new business ventures, told Strategy from Southam’s Toronto headquarters where she was working with Adams and others, her company is serious about bringing Prodigy to the Canadian market.

Miller says, in the u.s., Prodigy offers more than two million members access to news stories from The Los Angeles Times and Advertising Age, among others, their investment portfolios, home banking, private messages, faxes and files from home and office, ticket reservations, and more than 800 public bulletin board topics, among other things.

Adams says different regulations in Canada prevent the exact duplication in this country of what Americans can get on-line.

She says securities laws here mean discount brokerage trading is out, for example.

As well as a home computer and modem, Prodigy members need decoding software.

Miller says the software is listed at US$39.

She says the most popular package for American users of Prodigy costs US$14.95 a month per household of up to six users and is untimed.

A cheaper package, US$7.95 a month, allows users two hours on-line a month with each hour above that costing US$3.60.

About 80% of Americans can plug into Prodigy on their local phone lines.

Miller says, in the u.s., Prodigy has 200 advertisers, adding the third-party advertising can be either intrusive or self-selected and much of it is interactive.

Adams says because Prodigy users have to sign on the first time with a short user profile, advertising is easily targetted.

She says a boy who dials up the latest video game might get an ad from Nintendo or Sega.