Campaign Interactive: Perspective

It has happened almost imperceptibly. Some time within the past month, vast sections of the consumer web market in the UK reached saturation point.

It has happened almost imperceptibly. Some time within the past

month, vast sections of the consumer web market in the UK reached

saturation point.



This happened either around the time that the third or fourth pet site

in a row went live, or it might have been at the launch of the fifth

women’s lifestyle and shopping portal. We’ve seen this in the US as the

appetite for certain initial public offerings dried up.



With certain exceptions, it doesn’t matter what market you look at, be

it health, community, auction, women or finance. What you will find - if

you haven’t noticed already - are markets overcrowded to the point that

launching a new site which offers nothing but more of the same would

appear to be a waste of money. This, however, does not deter new sites

winning the backing of investors and publishers.



IPC is the latest entrant into the ’all things for all women’ portal

market. Its contribution to the blandness of the content and shopping

arena in its website, BeMe.com, is only the more remarkable considering

its heritage as a publisher of successful women’s titles. You need

little more than this to highlight the content conundrum that many

publishers seem to be stuck in. It might be successful - but be careful

what you do with it.



It won’t end with BeMe.com. Watch out for Women.com and homearts.com

from the US, the rest of the Ready2 portal and the Vogue online

revamp.



Football has long been another desperately crowded arena and new

football sites are still attracting investment. Swedish investors have

put up pounds 3 million to develop a pan-European football portal,

eurofootball.com.



With a launch planned in the run-up to the Euro 2000 football

championship, it is going to have a tough time. Football.co.uk is

another on its way.



It all points to a not too distant shakeout. There are still, of course,

plenty of gaps in the consumer market and sites waiting in the wings

that none of us have heard of, but these are likely to be tightly

targeted, serving audiences who know exactly what they want.



There are the new takes on existing models. Instead of auction sites, we

are starting to see reverse auction sites. Instead of online stores,

we’re getting co-operative buying sites. Mutuality might have taken a

beating elsewhere, but it is rising on the net.



For consumer growth there is an only slightly tapped area of

infomediaries.



Sites that match what consumers want with information and services. They

are about third parties finding the best deals around.



We are already starting to see a few of these with the recent launches

of sites like Hirevolution.com, a home improvement and building website

where you can find vetted contractors and domestic services for building

and DIY work. E-commend.com is also in the market.



Another is the Exchange Group, with its mortgage sourcing service.

Others are being planned and prepared to launch in other sectors.



For companies that have spent time building their brands, the

infomediary is probably not such good news. If consumers trust the

middlemen - online at least - the value of those brands will be

diminished.



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