A SETBACK FOR INTERNET ADS PUBLISHER YANKS 2-WEEK-OLD MECKLERWEB SITE FOR RETOOLING

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The rush to commercialize the Internet hit a major snag last week as a high-profile advertising concept was recalled for an overhaul.

Stamford, Conn.-based publishing company Mecklermedia Corp. yanked its MecklerWeb service after less than two weeks, leading to the departure of three executives who oversaw the project.

MecklerWeb, a much-hyped Internet site designed to provide information on a wide variety of marketers, opened Oct. 5. A joint project of Digital Equipment Corp., Ogilvy & Mather Direct and Electronic Data Systems, among others, MecklerWeb was to become a central point of reference for subjects ranging from business to medicine to the arts.

But Mecklermedia signed only one paying sponsor, Andersen Consulting, which didn't even get around to designing its site, although it paid the $25,000 sponsorship fee.

Mecklermedia Chairman-CEO Alan Meckler said the company tried to bite off more than it could chew: "You can do perhaps one area well, but you can't do 27 areas well." He said the company invested more than $200,000 developing the broad-based site.

As a result of the changes, MecklerWeb President Christopher Locke is leaving the company, along with Jason Bluming, chief technology officer, and Sales Director Jane Brown.

Mr. Locke, reached at his home last week, said, "To say that I disagree with the decision is a radical understatement. It doesn't make any sense."

Under Mecklermedia's new plan, MecklerWeb will be rebuilt to concentrate on areas that are closely tied to the parent company's three special interest magazines: Internet World, CD-ROM World and Virtual Reality World.

The original strategy called for several dozen outside companies to serve as domain "sponsors," in charge of supplying marketing content and eventually recruiting like-minded companies to the Internet site.

"Theoretically, it is a terrific idea but practically, I don't think it will work," said Mr. Meckler. "The flaw is that you can't guarantee content, and it's very questionable about whether you can attract broad advertising support."

The sponsorship rate has been slashed to $5,000, entitling an advertiser to have his logo appear on the site for 90 days.

Paul Gudelis, who joined MecklerWeb in July from editorial support manager at Ziff-Davis Interactive, will become general manager of the new MecklerWeb.

Mr. Locke said he believes the idea was killed before it was given sufficient time to develop.

"We had only eight days of being open for business," he said. "If you're selling a $25,000 product, do you think you can do it in eight days?"

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