Special Report: Trends to track

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Portal predictions: Five trends to track

• The number of portals and e-marketplaces will dwindle. "They are shutting down every day," said Forrester Research Inc. analyst Dan O'Brien, noting that on the consumer side, there are really only three winners: AOL, Yahoo! and MSN. Some portals and marketplaces will merge where it makes sense, while others will stumble and fail, he said.

• Private exchanges will rise. Partnerships are being drawn between content providers, portals and consortium exchanges or private exchanges, said Steve Butler, eMarketer Inc. And Jupiter Media Metrix Inc.'s Tim Clark said these partnerships could court companies that are reluctant to join a public marketplace. These will represent online transactions, said O'Brien, "but not the [original] vision of the industry marketplace."

• Industry-oriented leaders will emerge and dominate. "There will definitely be portals that emerge as leaders within each industry," Butler said. "But they might have a lot more depth to them, rather than just simply listing services or catalog services and information." Consortium exchanges will probably lead the charge as strong, industry-specific portals.

• Regionalization will replace nationalization for some. Portals that initially tried to serve a wider, national market are now scaling back and focusing on specific city markets, Butler said. Chambers of commerce may rise to become players for local businesses. O'Brien even sees an opportunity for regional consumer portals in the industry-specific b-to-b arena. "If the national players are charging a lot for national coverage and all you want is to reach people within 50 miles," then there is unmistakable opportunity for portals to take a local approach, O'Brien said.

• Corporate portals will get broader and deeper. Companies such as Ingersoll-Rand Co. and Dell Computer Corp. have begun adding tons of industry content onto their corporate Web sites, further blurring the lines. Ingersoll-Rand's IR World Newsroom, for example, provides daily news reports and information for the vertical industries and growth sectors that the company does business in on its Web site. Many others will follow in an attempt to increase traffic and transactions. —Karalynn Ott

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