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In the rush towards meaningful content provision online, the big
hitters are heading in some intriguing directions. If you can feel your
brains melting out of your ears from an overdose of YouTube’s cats on trampolines and could do with something slightly more cerebral for a change, read on.  This week, AOL took the next step forward with a website that will distribute documentaries. The website, dubbed AOL True Stories, will offer titles before theatrical release and between cinema and DVD release.  http://video.aol.com/video-category/true-stories/2546

The
site's current library of twenty films is available to stream,
download-to-own and buy as a DVD, and will accompany community forums
where viewers can share their perspectives through blogs, live chats,
message boards and video posting. Additionally, filmmakers can maintain
a blog to communicate with viewers regarding different aspects of their
film. Jordan Kurzweil, VP of development and
production at AOL programming, commented at launch: ‘We're hoping to
create great conversation online where people will debate about films.’

Launch titles include the controversial 1998 Oscar nominee ‘Waco: Rules of Engagement’ and ‘Shadow Company’,
which examined the role of private security firms in post-occupation
Iraq. Three new titles will be added each month, with this rising to as
much as twelve when the site is established. Revenue will be generated
from 30-second ads at the beginning of a film, which will be shared
with distributors as well as filmmakers.

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Following the unpopularity of Amazon’s film download service ‘Unbox’, the terms of which popular blog BoingBoing
likened to telling customers to ‘eat shit and die’, AOL’s integrated,
sensitive and targeted approach to this area could be a well needed
tonic. So – if you’re fully intending to watch something meaningful on
TV when you get home tonight but know full well that the hours between
7 and 10pm will be spent watching Friends on DVD, get your brain engaged early on with this video on demand service.

At the same time, Microsoft has been busy, unveiling the new Vista operating system, the much anticipated Zune, plus myriad additions to their Live Search service. The latest of these is the announcement of an online library to digitise the world’s books – a claim made by rivals Google not 5 months ago. The service, Live Search Books,
will apparently attempt to make ‘the reading experience as natural as
possible’. Using their blog to both make the announcement and respond
to comments, an unnamed Microsoft spokesperson said: ‘The US beta
launch of Live Search Books is a big step forward in advancing the way
people discover information through the integration of content that has
been off-limits to the traditional search experience, until now.’ http://blogs.msdn.com/livesearch

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Books
online is a tricky one – whilst we can see what it would add to the
search experience, we can’t see the pleasure of curling up in an arm
chair with an actual hard copy and a glass of wine/bar of
chocolate/disgruntled moggy disappearing just yet. However, as Ferris Bueller once said – life moves pretty fast, and we’d be the last person to resist change. Hand that Sony Reader over here. www.learningcenter.sony.us/assets/itpd/reader

ON: AOL & MSN Getting Busy via @jpenabickley