A New Jersey start-up this week launches an Internet company with the potential to break through some of the technological, psychological and financial barriers to making the Web a truly mass medium.
And it's doing it without carrying advertising.
DirectWeb will give a free home computer to subscribers who sign up for its $19.95-per-month, unlimited Internet-access service. The PCs will be loaded with an Intel chip and Microsoft software and Web browser.
Unlike services such as Free-PC.com, DirectWeb will not require subscribers to view ads or turn over personal information to qualify for the free computer. Neither requires long-term contracts.
DirectWeb will make its money from Internet-access fees and e-commerce through a menu of services it will offer to online users.
"We are not relying on advertising for any part of our revenue," said Glenn Goldberg, VP-marketing. "We are not an advertising-driven model. We don't think that's a long-term, economically viable model for the Internet."
In addition to giving subscribers free computers and software, DirectWeb plans to update the hardware every three years.
"We have put together an integration play," said Mr. Goldberg. "This is for people reluctant to get on the Internet or even get a computer."
Funded by Network Associates and others, DirectWeb will first offer 25,000 computers to consumers in the Philadelphia area starting March 31. A national rollout is planned for fall. Mr. Goldberg said the start-up hopes to have 1 million subscribers in as few as 18 months.
While DirectWeb does not factor ad revenue into its model, it will introduce itself via advertising.
'THE END OF THE WORLD'
A campaign developed by Think New Ideas, West Hollywood, Calif., features images of flying computers created by Industrial Light & Magic. In the spots, the computers land on a bicyclist and others in everyday situations to predict "the end of the world, at least the way you know it."
The ads carry the tagline "DirectWeb: This is big."
Direct Partners, Santa Monica, Calif., is handling one direct-response spot in the campaign. Overall spending is expected to be in the $20 million to $40 million range, Mr. Goldberg said.
Copyright March 1999, Crain Communications Inc.