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Infoseek Corp. is forming a Web advertising rep firm, underscoring the growing pressure on Internet search engines to expand their business models.

About 20 sites are currently beta-testing the rep firm, called Infoseek Network, with areas devoted to business, news and entertainment.


The rep company is similar to DoubleClick Network, which sells ad packages across some 60 sites. DoubleClick, however, isn't connected to a search engine.

Infoseek's move indicates just how competitive the search engine industry has become. Even the category's leaders are looking for new ways to tap ad dollars.

"Search engines are without a doubt consolidating their business so that soon there will be only two or three left standing," said Mary Modahl, director of media and technology strategies at Forrester Research. "They're all looking around, asking what they can do besides being a search site."

An online, print and direct marketing campaign from Goldberg Moser O'Neill, San Francisco, breaks this week to promote the Infoseek Network.

Infoseek will sell only excess ad inventory, allowing member sites to maintain their own sales and marketing operations.

Ideally, Infoseek is looking for a minimum of 300,000 available impressions per month from each site. It plans to deliver targeted ads for a cost-per-thousand impression of $35, an efficiency in line with DoubleClick. Infoseek's search engine, Infoseek Guide, will be the network's anchor tenant.

Infoseek in coming weeks will announce a new technology that provides sophisticated measuring, tracking and targeting capabilities.

Sites participating in the Info-seek Network will receive a percentage of each ad buy as well as quarterly reports that analyze audience size and response rates.

"We're not a search company, but an audience/content aggregator," said Peter Rip, VP-general manager of the Infoseek Network. "Advertising is a very specific kind of content, so developing the network isn't a defensive move, but is a logical step in our role as aggregator of content on the Web."


Infoseek will continue to develop technology for its search engine; it will launch Infoseek Ultra this week, featuring enhanced searching capabilities and a larger database.

A recent report written by Ms. Modahl concluded that ad networks will be a major force on the Web. Sales-force leverage, technological know-how and mass-audience reach are among the advantages of such networks.

By "forming an ad-reach network, Infoseek is really becoming a media company," Ms. Modahl said. "But like search engines, ad-reach networks will also be consolidating as an industry and there will only be room for two or three big ad-reach networks. It's a space that's becoming mighty crowded."

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