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AOL Adds Blogging-By-Phone

America Online has gussied up its "AOLbyPhone" service with new features aimed at keeping its wireless phone-using members just a keypad away from checking e-mail or updating personal Weblogs .

The new features in the service include the ability to use voice commands to reply to e-mail messages that have been checked over a phone, leave short voice messages for other AOL members, unlimited directory assistance, and news headlines. It also includes new features that let members update their personal blogs via audio files left over the phone.

The new features are part of a host of enhanced services and features the ISP has been rolling out in recent weeks, as it also readies to release the next version of its client, AOL 9.0 Optimized. The launch, expected this fall, is one of the most ambitious upgrades from AOL in years. Although geared for its 3 million-member domestic broadband base, the next version of AOL is offering a host of new features to its 23-million member domestic narrowband base, including exclusive content, anti-virus protection and improved surfing speeds.

As it readies its launch, AOL is looking to grow its broadband base while managing the continued erosion of its narrowband base as broadband becomes more widely available and customers switch to other high-speed access providers. Part of that plan, company officials have said in public statements, includes managing its costs and finding more sources of revenues from its dial-up base such as premium, add-on services.

AOLbyPhone costs between $3.95 and $4.95 per month, and lets users check their e-mail, reply and conduct other functions with voice commands using a toll-free number.

AOL said AOLbyPhone lets users listen to e-mail from any e-mail address over the phone, and then respond either by recording a 60-second audio message in their own voice or, in a new enhancement to the service, use touchtone keypad strokes for enhanced privacy.

In addition, the company said it would offer unlimited directory assistance, and new services such as wakeup calls, along with the blogging-update function.

The company is expected to offer more new features and services in coming weeks, such as taking the wraps off a new service for children, called KOL, and a Latino-focused service as well. In addition, AOL plans to promote its 9.0 release at an upcoming Dave Matthews benefit concert in New York on Sept. 24th, according to a report on Entertainment Weekly's Web site, but the event is not slated as the company's official launch of 9.0, according to AOL.