INTERACTIVE: CASE STUDY/FUTURENET - Future’s umbrella site hopes to be more than just the sum of its parts - FutureNet has diversified its Web operation to raise the interest of advertisers and users

When Future Publishing launched its Website, FutureNet, in September 1994, it was little more than a springboard for its Internet magazine, .net.

When Future Publishing launched its Website, FutureNet, in

September 1994, it was little more than a springboard for its Internet

magazine, .net.

Pearson acquired Future Publishing in the same year, and it’s new-media

arm took over the running of the site.

The site was developed to contain information about all of Future’s

titles, but the presentation was flat and rigid, and hardly differed

from the off-line version.

Two-and-a-half years down the line, a new, improved version has


According to its editor, Roger Brown, the new service - a compendium of

many sites - is designed to attract users by offering sections that

appeal to individual interests.

’The Web is too big for people to comprehend and many get overwhelmed by

it. By grouping users together by interests, it becomes easier for them

to use - and for advertisers to target them,’ Brown says.

FutureNet comprises 16 general interest sites - PCNet, MacWeb, GameNet,

CyclingNet, Footbal Net, FilmWeb, ClassicalNet, FutureNet 97, MangaNet

and TotalNet. The TotalCar, MusiciansNet and SFNet sites will be

accessible in the near future, while TechZone, FoodNet and CraftNet will

be up and running by the end of May.

There are also five corporate sites for Penguin, Pearson, Microsoft,

Future Publishing and Compaq, the companies involved in creating


Almost every site has its own search engine which enables browsers to

look for whatever interests them the most.

PCNet also boasts a ’PC consultant’ and will work out a user’s ideal PC,

once they have completed a questionnaire. The opening question asks for

a budget and, once further details are entered (whether the computer is

going to be used for games, Internet connection, or word processing),

the PC consultant will calculate the cost of the hardware required.

CycleNet, aimed at cyclists, offers a unique function. When users

highlight a particular area of the country, the search engine will work

out a map, complete with cycle routes, that can be downloaded and saved

on to a hard disk.

FoodNet’s search engine unearths restaurants by area in a similar way.

The Larder Challenge aims to provide enthusiasts with recipes based

around the ingredients they choose to enter.

On the forthcoming MusiciansNet, would-be musicians can send in demo

tapes that are loaded on to the site. Potential employers can then

download and sample the artists’ work. Classified advertising will also

feature on this mini-site.

FutureNet carries banner advertising and Pearson claims to have had

considerable interest from potential advertisers since the relaunch last

month. The company is expecting to reach its target of an operating

profit of pounds 20,000 by the end of this year.

Advertising doesn’t just consist of static or rolling banners -

advertisers can sponsor features, such as the proposed Fantasy Tour de

France, which work on the same premise as Fantasy Football. Features

such as the PC consultant allow advertisers to follow up on potential

customers who have looked at the reviews of specific models of their PCs

or hardware.