Chapter 9 Overview

Marketing on the Commercial
Online Services
by Margo Komenar and Irene Graff

With all of the competition, collaboration, constant growth and change in the commercial online services and major Internet sites, it is very difficult for businesses to know what advertising or marketing options exist and which ones might be most appropriate for their company's products or services. Chapter 9, co-written with Irene Graff, an accomplished industry researcher and writer, addresses this dilemma by providing a synopsis of the features, marketing and advertising programs on each of the major commercial online services and one of the smaller niche market proprietary services. America Online, CompuServe and Prodigy offer similar membership features, but slightly different marketing opportunities for vendors, and various business and revenue models within each venue. MSN is positioned as an Internet-based service that aggregates its content, but also offers a range of user services and advertising opportunities. Bloomberg Financial Markets is a high-end vertical audience service that is included in this chapter because of its unique array of multimedia components and extensive marketing opportunities.

All of these services are focusing more and more on the Internet and mutually beneficial partnerships are forming at an unprecedented rate. Strategies and trends will be discussed through interviews with each of the services as well as with their vendors. Advertising programs are an expanding and moving target at this point, but those that will most likely stay in place in the near future are detailed in this chapter, plus some that are slated to launch by the fall of '96. Case examples are provided to illustrate ways vendor companies have taken advantage of the various venues, sometimes on several services simultaneously. Vendor companies interviewed include 1-800-FLOWERS, Computer Express, Electronic Gourmet Guide, Fragrance Counter, Kidsoft and Windham Hill. The information in this chapter will assist the reader in gaining a basic understanding of the marketing and advertising opportunities each service has to offer, and the trends and strategies that are shaping the future of online marketing.

The economic power of the Internet is still a relatively untapped giant. The online marketplace is expected to reach over $1.4 billion by the year 2000, according to industry reports. Great efforts and strides are being made to make commerce safe and viable on the Net, and businesses are discovering that information gathering and database mining are only some of the great riches to be had by venturing out into cyberspace.

 

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