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FRANCIS FORD COPPOLA (The Godfather, Apocalypse Now) is trolling online for new talent. The producer and director, who has won five Oscars, wants to turn his just-launched Web site ( into the Net's first writers' colony, a virtual laboratory for new plots and ideas. The plan: Would-be Capotes get their works read and Coppola's year-old print magazine, Zoetrope All-Story, gets an early shot at discovering new talent.

To submit to Coppola's new "on-the-air magazine," writers must first register for a password and then agree to read five stories and rate them for overall quality, originality, character development, writing, and plot. Coppola believes that "great writing talent must be out there, lurking in anonymity." Those who post here, he says, will be read, encouraged, and "put together with others of a like sort." And Coppola will do some of the cheerleading: He just hosted his first live chat with members. Submissions are soaring, with more than 70 new stories posted so far. Most are written "from the heart," says Coppola. But quality varies as widely as plot. Among new postings: "Fury," describing an abused woman's revenge, and "The Grass Is Greener If You Eat It," a story about life--as told by a cow.Larry DarkReturn to top


YOU'RE ON THE WEB A LOT, ONLINE FOR HOURS. SO WHAT'S getting sidelined? A just-released survey by Mercer Management Consulting Inc. suggests TV-watching may be taking the biggest hit. Of 900 early Internet users surveyed by the New York City-based firm, 76% say they now spend less time in front of the tube. Nearly half, 45%, say they're sleeping fewer hours and spending less time on the phone. Reading and exercising also are down. In a separate WebCensus survey by Hambrecht & Quist of more than 100,000 Netizens on Mar. 30, 12% said they're reading fewer newspapers and magazines.

Mercer's Richard Christner says these findings suggest big challenges facing media, telecommunications companies, and even booksellers over the next few years. "If I'm a phone company, these trends might tell me a lot about future demand for long-distance service," he says. "And if I'm in advertising, I might want to start rethinking my TV ad budget." As for the sleepless-in-cyberspace crowd? Coffee makers might consider boosting production.EDITED BY MARCIA STEPANEKReturn to top

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IT'S A NIGHTMARE FOR NETWORK MANAGERS: The road crew cuts through your fiber-optic lines with a backhoe, and phone and data lines suddenly go kaput. Danvers (Mass.)-based SideBand Systems Inc. is offering a wireless backup. Its portable, high-bandwidth communication link can beam voice and data from the window or rooftop of one building to a neighboring one, bypassing the potential for earthly upsets.

SideBand's SlingShot, a lightweight antenna and instrument pod on rollers, can handle up to 10 megabytes of local area network data traffic and multiple T1 lines for phone calls. The systems, which began shipping on Mar. 17, cost $15,000 to $40,000, depending on their capacity, and can be assembled in a couple of hours. Jack Davis, the company's chief operating officer, says the SlingShot system has a range of 15 miles--as long as nothing blocks the line of sight between the two antennae.Paul C. JudgeReturn to top

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