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The new way to spell publicity: O-N-L-I-N-E

We’re not sure if producer Joel Silver has political aspirations, but he is following in the footsteps of Vice President Al Gore in at least one area.

Just weeks after Gore appeared in an electronic “town hall meeting” on CompuServe, where “listeners” could type in questions to the veep via a computer , the bearded wonder appeared on America Online to promote his latest film, “The Hudsucker Proxy,” and field questions from the online listeners.

It was all part of “Time Online,” a regular Time magazine feature on AOL, and according to Warners’ Don Buckley, Silver was all for the idea.

“Once he heard the idea, he embraced it completely,” noted Buckley, who said the studio will be doing more of these online press conferences. “We’re considering that it might be an interesting way to make talent available to interested press. They don’t even have to travel. They need only to find a way to access a computer.”

Indeed. Silver, who was sitting in a conference room on Warners’ Burbank lot, received questions from moderator Robert Pondiscio, who was on the other side of the country in New York. The questions were flashed on a screen and Silver responded. Within seconds, his responses were then typed into a computer for all “listeners” to read.

And while many of the questions to Silver did involve “The Hudsucker Proxy” and his career, Pondiscio said that — no surprise — many of the participants in the conference wanted to know how they could get scripts to Silver.

“Every second or third comment was somebody trying to pitch a script, treatment or a score,” Pondiscio said. “I felt like I was in ‘The Player.’ But he did give out his office address and told them they could submit their material.”

With that in mind, these online services might be better than having an agent.

INTERMEDIA rumblings: If there was one clear fact that emerged from last week’s Intermedia ’94 conference, it’s that nobody is really sure where the electronic information superhighway is going. The other big unknown is who is going to bring it to us — cable or phone companies?

While phone and cable companies are jockeying for position before the upcoming revolution — hence all the recently announced alliances — nobody has really decided who is better suited to pave the infopike.

At the heart of the problem is that, as AT&T’s Robert Kavner pointed out, there are big differences between the way the cable and phone companies deliver information. With a phone, or a computer hooked up to a phone line, one can talk to anybody else with a phone or a computer anywhere in the world. And the interface is certainly easy to use — you pick up the phone and dial. You also have the freedom to dial into an online computer service such as CompuServe or America Online any time. Conversely, anybody with the cash and the ambition can create any kind of phone service and offer it to the public.

But the cable companies have a completely different way of doing business. Since their system is designed for the mass market, you have a limited number of channels trying to reach the broadest possible audience. What this means is that the cable companies pretty much control what is going to be seen. Even with a 500 channel universe, the programming ultimately is still going to be determined by a small group of people –“the gatekeepers,” as Kavner referred to them.

It’s still anybody’s guess who will win this battle of technology, but most observers predict that we’ll probably see a little from both sides. And then, of course, the deliverers of all this information are going to have to figure out how to make the infopike a necessity for every home.

PHONE IT IN: One of the most interesting aspects of Frank Sinatra’s “Duets” album was that many of the performers who sang with the Chairman phoned in their vocal performance over EDnet (the Entertainment Digital Network), via fiber-optic telephone lines. The technology is changing how recording studios, film and record producers do business.

Currently, more than 100 studios have installed one of the two systems, EDnet or IDB.

EDnet got its kick-start from George Lucas and his Skywalker Sound staff in 1991, when sound mixes from “Backdraft” were sent from Lucas’ Marin County facility to the filmmakers in Los Angeles. With the mixes being sent through fiber-optic cable, this eliminated the need for material to be delivered in the traditional way — usually by courier or overnight delivery service.

Of course, the cost for these services is considerably more than your average phone bill, even if you are in the habit of calling a lot of 976 sex lines. The charges for EDnet are based on where you call and how far your studio is from the nearest connection. While the monthly fees range from $ 75 to $ 2,000, the usage fees fall between $ 75 to $ 900 per hour.

(Andy Marx can be reached on PAGE and CompuServe. His CompuServe number is 70324, 3424.)

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