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Marching Madly to finalfour.net

Every now and then a blizzard of controversy assails the virtues of the World Wide Web and its effects on the workforce. One that pops up from time to time is the propensity of employees surfing channels unrelated to their tasks at hand during office hours. When it involves pornography the solution is simple: workers who get caught get promptly fired.

But who is to blame when employees and their bosses visit their online broker or finance sites for investment and market updates? In theory, the principal is the same. People who should be working are instead focusing their attention elsewhere. What action should be taken? The media world lies poised to reveal any inkling of a system to iron these kinks out.

Such are the temptations of sites that provide real-time updates, and in this month, people may succumb to the madness that is March. No doubt finalfour.net, owned by online sports media firm TotalSports, contributed greatly to this with its real-time, play-by-play sports updates.

In fact, the official site of the NCAA championships set site records in the first two weeks of tournament play. Through last Sunday, March 26, the site's signature TotalCast coverage received 146 million page views -- more than double from last year's traffic for the entire course of tournament play. And why not? The site is a March madman's or madwoman's guilty pleasure.

TotalSports has credentialed reporters on-site to cover each shot, rebound and turnover, providing information to the fan the moment the action takes place. The coverage is backed by an extensive statistical database and features interactive brackets, audio and video coverage, venue information and historical information on past NCAA Championships.

What would be really interesting, is trying to imagine how many workers were splitting time between their work-related phone calls and the play-by-play TotalCasts so they can score that $15 per person, 43 member office pool they entered before the 64-team touney tipped off. And then there is all of those crazy college kids cutting classes to log on to their PCs.

In its fourth year of providing in-depth tournament news and information and real-time coverage of the NCAA Division I men's basketball championships, and its third year of coverage for the women's championships, finalfour.net served 292,477,253 hits, 146,517,450 page views and 2.947,395 unique hosts. Traffic numbers have increased each year since the site's inception, and with the Final Four yet to be played, the site will continue to drive site records for its coverage of the tournament.

TotalSports Co-Founder and President George Schlukbier estimated that the men's NCAA championship game could rack in as many as 165 million page views.

"An event like March Madness is customer made for the Net," Schlukbier said. "It offers vertical markets and a ton of info. We take it deeper with shot by shot and scoreboards."

He said he thought the increase in hits is due to brand awareness.

"You can do all of the promotions or marketing you want, but people are going to find good content regardless of what steps you take," Schlukbier said.

Schlukbier said the idea to create TotalSports came from his online coverage of the Oklahoma City bombing six years ago. As an editor and vice president for the first online newspaper, The Nando Times, he said he watched what he has come to call a "flash site" phenomenon occur. As the story took to the Internet, the seminal online publication was bombarded by traffic by people searching for the latest update about the tragedy. The tremendous amount of traffic, of course, serves as testament to interest in what is being offered.

Schlukbier said he and co-founder, chairman and ehief executive officer Frank Daniels III took positives from the negative



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