December 26, 2000, 9:55 AM

Gifts for the new baby---the 2000 way

Peek into the purse of any doting grandma, and you’ll find pictures of the latest arrival. But such photos could become as passe as cloth diapers if a New York-based company makes a go of its new venture. BabyPressConference.com lets grandma and other invited guests log onto the Internet for a live webcast of the newborn and parents, streamed directly from the hospital-and while they’re at it, they can send baby and parents gifts from the site’s retail collection.

Thirty-five hospitals are participating in the webcasts, which use video and computer equipment in the hospital but operate remotely from the company’s New York offices. President and CEO Lee Perlman says 100 hospitals will be online by the end of the summer. “This is how babies will be introduced,” he declares. That’s what Toysrus.com is betting on. The company took a 10% stake in BabyPressConference.com, which launched in March. Its dot-com baby superstore, Babiesrus.com, is the site’s primary shopping partner. Free to parents, the site’s revenue model depends on commissions from baby gear sales at Babiesrus and other retail partners such as the Vermont Teddy Bear Co. and Virtual Florist-as well as sales of recorded copies of the webcasts.

The site’s 50% shareholder, the Greater New York Hospital Association, lends a credibility that could help the company muscle its way past hospital gatekeepers. But it may not have to. Perlman contends the webcasts have value as a marketing tool for hospitals, which look to maternity services only as a key revenue source but also an opportunity to establish relationships that mean repeat customers as the family develops.

As to the retail side, “It’s a unique angle in terms of a segue into this market,” says analyst Christopher Todd of Jupiter Communications. “This is an attempt to establish a relationship with the parents from the birth of that child, and it’s a great potential opportunity from that perspective.” Content from Primedia Inc., another key investor and owner of American Baby Magazine, aims to make the site a destination that keeps parents and friends coming back long after the birth. It remains to be seen if they will–and if they’ll be bringing their wallets. But for now, with 800 webcasts already put to bed and an estimated 3,000 sets of expectant parents registered to participate, it’s safe to say this baby is alive and kicking.

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