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