New Web21 bookmark service aids advertisers

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The revered sign of a site's success--getting bookmarked--is now for sale.

A new service launching today from Web21, Palo Alto, Calif., installs marketers' logos and links on a user's Netscape or Internet Explorer browser, versions 4.0 or higher. The software, 100Hot Surfboard, is named after Web21's 100Hot site that ranks the most popular sites on the Web based on proxy logs. Users are urged to download Surfboard to add cool bookmarks to their browsers.

PERSONAL TOOLBAR

Ameritech Corp., Black Lab Microsystems, Electron Music, loan site GetSmart, Great Sports and travel booking site Hotel Discounts are initial advertisers. The service charges $1 to $1.50 per browser for logos that appear on the Personal Toolbar in Netscape or the Links Toolbar on IE. When downloaded, 100Hot Surfboard installs up to six category folders on a user's toolbar, including family, travel, fun and search. Each category starts with a link to a 100Hot site. The family category, for instance, leads with the 100HotKids site, followed by relevant family oriented advertiser links. The price to appear inside a category folder is 45 cents per browser, or 30 cents to 40 cents a click.

"It gives advertisers an opportunity to not only display a banner ad but to create a bookmark entry for their site," says Bert Fornaciari, president-CEO of Web21.

Mr. Fornaciari said most of the deals last for one year, and after that time, the links remain on a user's browser for free. Surfboard's bookmarks, which are organized into a separate file folder than a user's personal bookmarks, can also be deleted at any time if a user chooses to do so.

175,000 SURFBOARDS DOWNLOADED

So far 175,000 Surfboards have been downloaded since Web21 went into beta test in August. The software is downloaded by clicking on a Surfboard banner ad, containing a Java applet that loads into a user's browser.

The payoff for loading the bookmarks is the convenience of having instant access to popular sites. There's no other added value.

Web21 is promoting Surfboard with a $2 million online ad campaign created in-house, which is aimed at people using version 4.0 or higher of Netscape or IE. The software doesn't work with earlier versions of the browser. Some ads are co-marketing efforts. For instance, one co-branding ad with Ameritech tells users to click here to "Add the Yellow Pages to your browser."

AdNet Strategies, Los Angeles, represents Web21 for ad sales and will provide weekly tracking reports for advertisers.

While Surfboard isn't necessarily breakthrough, it is significant, said Allen Weiner, chief analyst at Dataquest.

"It gives advertisers a way to get a permanent place in front of target customers," Mr. Weiner said.

NO UPDATE FEATURE

One drawback of the service is lack of an updating feature, Mr. Weiner said. "If an advertiser wants to change where you go [within a site], it's stuck with whatever URL" was assigned in the original ad buy, he said

The site also lacks personalization features to customize bookmarks to people's interests, Mr. Weiner said.

"Personalization is a direction we're headed," Mr. Fornaciari said, but declined to comment further.

Another obstacle is getting people to download the software, Mr. Weiner said. "There needs to be an exchange of value." he added.

Copyright November 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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