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Monday, 23 July, 2001, 16:25 GMT 17:25 UK
Soap slips through the net
Love, Life & Email
The soap opera has been tailored to female internet users
A soap opera by email is the result of the latest attempt to harness the power of internet technology for soap fans.

Handbag.com is claiming a world first by delivering a daily soap opera by email to subscribers.


In the 19th century the novel developed out of audience participation through the art of letter writing and pamphleteering - we think email dramas will become the modern equivalent.

Simon Beaufoy, IMP
There have been similar ventures before - in September 2000 Gimmesoap! posted a daily dose of family intrigue on a website, aimed at office workers, but it stopped the service in May this year.

Handbag.com's soap, Love, Life & Email, does not require its users to log on to a website once they have subscribed.

The story centres on four characters who, Handbag.com believe, will interest their core audience, 22 to 44-year-old women.

The soap consists of emails between the four characters, chatting about work and their love lives.

'Tailored'

Each email is marked with a plus sign to help subscribers distinguish them from the rest of their email traffic.

A spokeswoman for Handbag.com told BBC News Online: "It's tailored to how women use the internet.

"The idea is research-based - women use the net for communication first of all, followed by shopping and then taking holidays."

The soap, which has been running since 2 July, was prepared for Handbag.com by the creative agency IMP, whose creative director is The Full Monty writer Simon Beaufoy.

"We turned to email as the medium that is becoming more and more familiar to everyone and have found a new and exciting means of using it," said Mr Beaufoy at the soap's launch.

Characters

"Just as in the nineteenth century, when the novel developed out of audience participation through the art of letter writing and pamphleteering, so we think email dramas will become the modern equivalent."

To help users understand the ins and outs of the plot, the website has posted information about the characters - together with photographs of subscribers supposed to exemplify them - on its website.

A recent ABC audit revealed that Handbag.com had more than 400,000 unique users in May 2001 - 97% of whom are female.

Other websites are set to get in on the act.

Freeserve recently announced that it is launching an interactive holiday soap called Mount Kristos in the next few weeks.

See also:

12 May 01 | Sci/Tech
Text me a soap
04 Sep 00 | Entertainment
Daily soap hits internet
28 Sep 00 | UK
Women 'find lovers online'
14 Jun 01 | Business
Women overtake men online
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