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International Data Group, the computer publishing giant, is developing an online computer buying service aimed at a select group of corporate buyers.

IDG plans to test the service in September and formally introduce it at yearend, with a goal of 50,000 subscribers after the first year, said Mark Belinsky, president of Electronic Marketplace Systems, a unit formed to run the service.

The service will carry the names of IDG publications, starting with Computerworld and InfoWorld, rather than relying on the IDG name or Electronic Marketplace tag.

IDG is the latest player to go online, joining recent entries from Ziff-Davis Publishing Co. and Apple Computer and established offerings from Prodigy Services Co., America Online and CompuServe.

IDG demonstrated the service at a computer marketing conference in Rancho Mirage, Calif., late last month, just four days after Ziff unveiled its service at another IDG conference.

But IDG and Ziff are using different strategies. IDG is targeting corporate buyers, while Ziff's Interchange Online Network targets both business users and consumers. That service will carry interactive versions of magazines and news services (AA, Jan. 24).

IDG will offer an online version of InfoWorld on the Ziff system, an indication that the IDG and Ziff services aren't directly competitive despite a longstanding rivalry between the two powerhouse publishers.

IDG's service will let subscribers read news stories, search IDG's library and review market research from International Data Corp., a research arm.

Advertising on IDG's service will include data sheets on hardware and software, product demos and background information about a company. Buyers also will be able to ask for more information, solicit price quotations and order a product electronically.

The ability to speed up the time-consuming process of information gathering may be the service's most attractive point to corporate computer buyers, Mr. Belinsky said.

"It's the ultimate, it's one-to-one marketing" between buyer and seller, he said.

IDG expects to charge $30 to $50 a month for a subscription. That's comparatively high for an online service, but Mr. Belin sky expects corporate buyers to sign on because of the service's convenience.

Ad rates aren't set. But advertisers will pay a small amount-probably a few hun =dred dollars-to list a product on the service, Mr. Belinsky said.

IDG will make most of its money from "transactions," with advertisers paying every time a buyer asks for more information or purchases a product.

Mr. Belinsky, not surprisingly, thinks online information and shopping mark the future of IDG.

"In 30 years," he said, "a [printed] magazine might be as extinct as the door-to-door salesman."

In starting the service, IDG isn't abandoning other online offerings, including versions of IDG titles on CompuServe and America Online. PC World, IDG's flagship magazine, also is proceeding with PC World Exec/Direct, offering the broad audience of CompuServe a simpler online PC shopping service than the program being developed by Mr. Belinsky.

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