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Internet Revenues--Showing Up Just Isn't Enough

November 1998
Web money-makers push the technological envelope.

BY ERIK CAGLE


Ask 100 non-computer-technology-related companies why they have a Web site, and 95 will probably respond, "To have a presence on the Internet."

Those respondents are in good company. At least 3 million Internet domain names have been registered under .com, .net and .org. Network Solutions, which has registered 75 percent of all domain names worldwide, reported a record 443,000 net new Internet domain names in the second quarter of 1998, up 91 percent from the second quarter 1997 total of 232,000 names and 30 percent from first quarter total of 340,000. Cumulative net registrations billowed from 1.04 million to 2.29 million between June 30, 1997, and June 30, 1998.

That is a lot of presence.

As a result, the search engine, once touted as the chief tool to finding the information needle in a cyber haystack, has itself become a haystack. Yahoo!, for instance, lists nearly 350 companies under the commercial printing search. Under production services, there are 37 listings. For business forms printing, there are 40. Yahoo! is but one search device, and production services and business forms are only two categorical branches of a technology that is now deeply rooted.

Given that search engines will only become more and more populated, featuring layers upon layers of categorical subdivisions, the "me, too" attitude toward hosting a site will not make the grade for companies that harbor hopes of their domain generating revenue. After all, if a phone book featured 350 plumbers, it's a safe bet some would receive few or no calls, as the choices are too numerous.

Those printers lucky enough to lure stray, potential customers to their Web sites should give these visitors a reason to stay, come back and, finally, pick up a phone and call.

While selling commercial printing directly over the Internet is a concept yet to be embraced by the industry at large, some of the leading printers are showing the way in terms of innovation. One of those leaders, R.R. Donnelley & Sons, of Chicago, has found several avenues for providing Internet commerce.

Match Made in Internet
Select Source is an electronic commerce solution from Donnelley that integrates catalog merchandise into specialized Web sites. The idea behind it, according to Donnelley Communication Manager Vera Panchak, is to marry catalogers with germane editorial on high-traffic Web sites. It is only fitting that one of the first matches Donnelley made was with the Wedding Channel's Web site, combining wedding-related editorial with catalog products.

"Obviously, there's some linkage with our own catalog customers and helping them repurpose their content," Panchak remarks. "Some of the Web sites this content is integrated into are iVillage, the Wedding Channel and HouseNet. As we're tracking this, our model is showing us that we're successfully converting online browsers to online shoppers at a faster rate than banner ads on the Web are doing."

 

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