While ratings for network daytime dramas are down, popular shows enjoy unusually devoted followings who track the shows in magazines and on Web sites, and whose love of their "stories" is helping fuel a new merchandising space: products from greeting cards to bath soaps are being marketed under the imprimatur of popular soap operas. Because scripts are written on-the-fly, soap opera producers can write in product placements on a day-by-day basis.

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