As keynote speaker on Wednesday at Jupiter Communications' Web Marketplace conference in Chicago, Mr. Kurnit, a veteran of Prodigy and MCI/News Corp. Online Services offered this advice about the Web: "It's not just an ad medium. It's not just a transaction medium. There's a lot of nooks and crannies where money can be made."
The challenge, he said, is finding and exploiting them.
In a speech that gave no hint of his past experiences nor his future plans, Mr. Kurnit remained guardedly optimistic about the future of the Web marketplace.
Sites that provide easier, more efficient ways of doing ordinary tasks will succeed, he said, citing MovieFone as one example. Don't try to build things that have never been done before, he urged. Instead, Web marketers must think of ways to add value.
Although he praised the quick growth of the Web advertising business, he cautioned that ad prices, currently averaging 2 cents per impression, must come down.
"A Net ad is twice as expensive as television on a per-viewer basis," he said, although most on the Net would say the targeting opportunities are worth the extra price.
The Web is far from perfect, he said. "Ninety-nine percent of it is awful. ... It's way over-graphiced" for the everyday user with a 14.4 modem.
Just like when TV and radio first came out, the novelty factor is driving people to the Web. But that traffic will wane, he said, adding the key is to go beyond just being cool and being valuable.