By early next year, about 50,000 registered architects will be able to tap into AIA Online, a service offering everything from lists of building products to bulletin boards.
The service won't charge a monthly fee, depending instead on advertising and online time for revenues.
A key part of AIA Online is its product listings from 8,500 manufacturers.
Free line-item listings, similar to a Yellow Pages entry, contain a marketer's name, address, phone, fax number and product list.
For $3,000, marketers can get an expanded listing offering names and addresses of regional sales offices, expanded product listings and other information. That fee also grants advertisers the right to communicate directly with the architects online.
So far, more than 60 companies have signed on as paid advertisers, said James W. Kelley, president-CEO of Telebuild, the Houston-based company helping the architects association build its service. Participating advertisers include Otis Elevator Co., Armstrong World Industries, W.R. Grace & Co., Bethlehem Steel Corp. and Herman Miller Inc.
"We expect to have something in the range of 2,000 [paying] advertisers in a relatively short period of time," said Paul Beatty, a one-time VP-publisher of McGraw-Hill's Architectural Record who is marketing the online service to potential advertisers through his company, Business Technology Communications, Garden City, N.Y.
Association members will receive software free bundled with Architecture magazine.Though technically independent, the monthly magazine, published by BPI Communications, is sent free to each association member.
Terrence McDermott, the former president of Cahners Publishing who is now CEO of the AIA, said the institute will use the online system as a gateway to other electronic services, so architects can access the Internet via AIA Online, for example.
"If people don't take advantage of it, we're going to follow it up with customer service, ask them why, see if they want us to walk them through while they boot it up," said Mr. McDermott. "Eventually, we expect just about every architect in the institute to be online."