The shopping service, WebShopper (www.webshopper.com), beginning this August will let PC users evaluate and purchase computer products in a virtual mall, giving them access to both IDG's news and reviews and to resellers handling sales and fulfillment.
IDG.net will let PC users set up a page with six "channels" showing headlines and abstracts about a different technology topic. One clever feature: The site allows users to rank the relevance of content, so that over time channels adapt to users' interests.
The free site also offers search tools, including a way to search for news and reviews on specific products or technologies. The site will be accessible in six languages; over time, IDG expects to make it available in the more than 40 languages in which it publishes.
The company will not sell advertising on IDG.net, in stark contrast to supersites of two rivals, Ziff-Davis Inc.'s ZDNet (www.zdnet.com) and CMP Media's TechWeb (www.techweb.com). CMP later this month will unveil a new supersite, CMPNet.com. Mecklermedia Corp., another tech publisher, last week launched its own supersite, Internet.com (www.internet.com).
"Ultimately, [IDG.net] is meant to be a reader service," said Laurie Morgan, publisher of IDG.net. "You serve advertisers better by serving readers first."
IDG's strategy is to move users quickly from IDG.net to content on a specific site, where advertisers will be able to target messages.
"The responsibility of IDG.net is to deliver people quickly and efficiently to the site that is most relevant to them or helps them make the best business decision," said IDG President Kelly Conlin. "We don't subscribe at all to the notion that you stick all your content in one giant URL and expect people to navigate their way through it in any intelligent way."
Jupiter Communications will tally advertising for all IDG sites under IDG.net, and Mr. Conlin said the site will rank among Jupiter's top 10. Until now, Jupiter has reported IDG sites separately; IDG's top ad site, PC World, ranked only 21st last year. The site aggregation will make IDG look more competitive with rivals like ZDNet, which ranked seventh.
IDG Marketing Services, the company's network sales group, will sell IDG's Web network, offering 69 sites in the U.S. and Europe this quarter and adding sites in Asia and Latin America later this year. The minimum buy will be three months; the rate card was being set last week. IDG's individual sites also will continue their sales efforts, handled in-house.
Separately, IDG is starting WebShopper as an "online broker" for computer buyers. Mr. Conlin said the site will use the metaphor of a store to "replicate as richly as possible a positive shopping experience, with lots of expert advice along the way."
The service is designed for both direct marketers and vendors who don't use the mail-order channel.