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Tossed Out of the Park

Is CEO Jeff Bezos dreaming when he says can be profitable? Many of our readers think so. We asked visitors at online for their opinion. Here's what they had to say:

When do you think will make money as an independent company?


2002: 19%

2003: 21%

NEVER: 52%

Data: BusinessWeek Online, May-June 2001, 2101 respondents. Do you think e-mail brings you closer to Congress? Don't bet on it. Far from building e-democracy, the Net is turning Capitol Hill into Mount Spam. And elected officials are increasingly hitting "delete."

Members of Congress got 80 million e-mails last year, up from 31 million in 1998, says the Congress Online Project, a non-partisan research group. But voters don't get responses and they're mad, according to a report by the group. "Growing numbers of citizens are frustrated by what they perceive to be Congress' lack of responsiveness to e-mail," the report says.

The problem: Interest groups generate so much spam that Hill staffers assume most e-mail is contrived agitation. Congress pays more heed to constituents who send handwritten personal missives. The best way to get your lawmaker's attention? "Flood the office with letters until the manager has to inch around them on the way to the bathroom," says political consultant Jonah Seiger. A big campaign check might help too.

Yet another dot-com dream has been doused--this time in ketchup.

As if plunging stocks and elusive profits weren't bad enough, here's the latest: The market for sports venue naming-rights deals--on which tech companies spent hundreds of millions of dollars--is tanking.

The evidence: The H.J. Heinz Co.'s (HNZ) 20-year, $57 million deal on June 15 with the Pittsburgh Steelers to dub the NFL team's new home Heinz Field. A lotta tomatoes? Not next to PSINet's (PSIXE) 20-year, $105.5 million deal with the Baltimore Ravens in 1999, now likely to be canceled since the Internet service provider filed for Chapter 11 on June 1. And Web holding-company CMGI (CMGI) pledged $115 million to CMGI Field, new digs of the New England Patriots. CMGI is "very committed" to the deal, but CEO David Wetherell says he would cash out for the right price.

Expecting anyone to trump 1999-2000 prices borders on delusion. Still, someone made an even worse deal: The St. Louis Blues' $70 million arena-rights agreement last year with ISP Savvis Communications (SVVS) included a $7.5 million downpayment--in Savvis stock, which has since lost 90% of its value. Was someone on the hockey team playing without a helmet?

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