Ask Mark Goldston how long he intends to stay as chairman-CEO of NetZero, a leader in the free Internet service provider category, and he'll tell you he intends to be there a long time.
"I really feel I have found my life's work," he says. "I think the Internet was made for me in that there are no limitations, only those you place on yourself. It's a marketer's dream."
Mr. Goldston fully realizes those words could come back to haunt him. He's held top positions with enough companies--Revlon, Faberge, Reebok International, L.A. Gear--and has been out on his own a couple of times as a consultant to know that there's no guarantee that this particular company or venture will truly be his last stop.
Yet there's something about NetZero that has clearly captured Mr. Goldston's long-term imagination.
"I've been involved with lots of big ideas, but when I got involved here I realized that NetZero has the opportunity to transform the way people access and navigate the Internet," he says. "This is an opportunity to see a company all the way from the beginning to developing a technology to marketing to consumers and managing that growth."
Not to mention that NetZero, which recently went public, is backed by Idealab, one of the hottest Internet incubators and venture capitalists. For the moment, the money-losing NetZero is the leader in offering free ISP service. Sign up for NetZero and you can tell America Online its services are no longer required. The catch: Consumers must reveal their demographics and agree to put up with an onslaught of targeted advertising messages.
Mr. Goldston figures that the Internet, despite all its brilliance, has ignored the newbie, the person who only wants his or her home computer to be as easy as using the toaster. Enter NetZero.
"My goal is to make NetZero the vehicle to attract a vast number of people to the Internet and to make cyberspace free and easy to use. I've spent my life trying to make compelling propositions for the consumer .|.|. and the Internet is no different."
`DEFENDERS OF THE FREE WORLD'
Through September, NetZero has attracted 2 million users, tiny compared to AOL's 19 million subscribers. Mr. Goldston hopes that will change as more consumers begin seeing the company's estimated $10 million to $15 million print, radio and TV campaign that broke in stages beginning in September. Robert Chandler & Partners and Bright Strategic Design, both Marina del Rey, Calif., handle creative; Western Initiative Media, West Hollywood, does media-buying.
"Our ad theme is, `Defenders of the free world,' " says Mr. Goldston. "And we're working hard to deserve that reputation."
Copyright November 1999, Crain Communications Inc.