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Circuit City + Napster

Circuit_city_logo_2 Like the folks at Coolfer, I'm having some trouble understanding why Circuit City (and other consumer-electronics retailers, for that matter) is still trying to sell digital music on its website -- this time, in a partnership with Napster. The company bought MusicNow (ne FullAudio) three years ago, which it used to power a downloadable music store on circuitcity.com. A year and a half later, the retailer sold MusicNow to AOL (which, in turn, dumped MusicNow for Napster in January). According to Billboard, the deal announced today enables circuitcity.com to offer a reskinned version of Napster's 99-cent download store and subscription music service.

Napster_kitty_2 I guess there's a possible synergy here with the sale of MP3 players -- everybody who buys a player not made by Apple or Sony could be prompted to do Napster's free trial or load up on some downloads. But the vast majority of buyers are going for iPods, which don't work with Napster's DRM. Another, more interesting possibility would be pre-loading MP3 players with tracks tied to Napster's subscription service, as RealNetworks has done with SanDisk (and BestBuy). The risk is that unless the pre-loads are personalized, buyers will be turned off -- just as they are with preloaded software on new PCs. And again, Napster won't work on iPods....

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Times editorial writer Jon Healey pens opinion pieces about a variety of business issues, and blogs about technologies that are changing the entertainment industry's business model.

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