INTERACTIVE: EXCITE GOES ALL PERSONAL

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In a strategic move, Excite today adds personalized services to its home page, with customizable stock quotes, local weather, news and other content.

"Personalization is a key trend in the industry," said Joe Kraus, senior VP and co-founder of Excite. It was important to make Excite stand out from the other search services, he said.

While search engines Infoseek, Lycos and Yahoo! all have personalized services, none use the services on their start page.

With personalization comes more targeted, more expensive ads. Excite is introducing "My Services" and "Today's Specials," which can be added to a user's start page.

PRICE HIKE UNCERTAIN

Excite is waiting to see user response and what kind of data it collects before deciding whether to raise ad rates, Mr. Kraus said.

The personalized service is also a way to build return traffic. During in-house research, Excite found that people who signed up for the My Excite Channel returned five times more often than those without a personalized page.

Excite is also defending itself against Microsoft Corp., which is set to launch its portal Microsoft Start in July. Start is expected to aggregate free e-mail, search, and customizable content from Microsoft sites like Expedia, MSNBC and CarPoint. Excite also faces competition from Yahoo!, Netscape, and CNET's Snap! Online, which has personalization on its entry page.

Excite will keep a search option at the top of the page, and allow people to personalize part of the service, or not at all. For example, users could input their ZIP code to bring up local news and weather.

As portals become more aggressive in their battle to retain users, said Bill Bass, analyst at Forrester Research, "Excite is choosing personalization as its weapon of choice."

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