`INTERNET SURFING WITH A PURPOSE';TWO SELF-PROCLAIMED COMPUTER GEEKS SET UP SHOP TO SERVE AS TRAFFIC COPS FOR MARKETERS ON THE WEB
If you build it on the Web, they'll come, but only if someone guides them there.
So says Scott Heiferman, the 23-year-old professed computer geek behind Internet Traffic, a new company formed to help marketers generate traffic to their World Wide Web sites.
"The whole nature of the Web is to link sites to other sites-either through sponsorship or partnership or non-paid links," he said. "It's so easy to have synergy, and very few companies are taking advantage of the interconnectedness of the Web."
Mr. Heiferman, a former interactive marketing frontiersman at Sony Electronics-honest, that's what his business card said-opened Internet Traffic in April with a free online listing service for Web sites that take advertising. But his goal is to be a middleman between marketers and Web sites, recommending appropriate matches and brokering links.
"We're inventing a new thing here that is something of a hybrid of media planning and public relations," he said. "I call it Internet surfing with a purpose."
Among those close to signing deals with Internet Traffic are Sony Electronics, Marriott International and Agency.com, a New York World Wide Web developer, Mr. Heiferman said.
"Scott articulated exactly the problem I faced: What if we build a Web page and no one comes?" said Rob Auster, director of new media/marketing at Marriott Ownership Resorts, which will launch a site for Marriott Vacation Club within a month. "Interactive Traffic is fulfilling a huge need out there now. Every company like ours has the problem of not only finding traffic, but finding meaningful traffic on the Web."
For an initial fee ranging from $5,000 to $10,000, Interacive Traffic will analyze a client's objectives and target audience, develop a traffic-generating plan (similar to a traditional media plan) and create and maintain the links.
Working from a cramped apartment in Astoria, New York, Mr. Heiferman and his partner, 27-year-old Ryan Nelson, created Traffic Resource, an online media-planning directory of Web sites that take ads, both paid and free. The sites range from HotWired to Asia Online and include ad rates, recent advertisers and contact names. Sites can be listed for free at http://www.i-traffic.com/.
"It's going to be super-important to create signposts throughout cyberspace to link particular sites or to guide people through," said Richard Fusco, online consultant at Next Century Media, New Paltz, N.Y. "If there were a person or company who specialized in knowing where to go and where to link on the Web, that'd be an extremely valuable service."
In the fast-growing world of the Web, new business opportunities spring up quickly. And entrepreneurs jump on those about as quickly as they evolve.
"Scott had all the ideas first, but a week later, you'd see other companies out there doing exactly what Scott envisioned," said Brian Sroub, Mr. Heiferman's former boss at Sony. "Online media planning is one that will have real longevity and Scott has the restless mind and drive to stick with it. I've watched him stay up working all night and have found him asleep at his computer in the morning. It's always a charming thing to see."
Like so many Internet entrepreneurs these days, Mr. Heiferman said he's been online for more than 10 years. As a student at the University of Iowa, he studied marketing and human factors engineering.
While there, Mr. Heiferman produced a collaborative Internet radio show called "Advertorial Infotainment"-TV spots, infomercials and jingles from all over the world.
"It was a typical screwy college student Internet thing, but it was a lot of fun and truly interactive," he said. "It was kind of our homage to the advertising industry."
Mr. Nelson is right up there with his partner when it comes to Internet experience. With degrees in electrical and computer engineering (also from University of Iowa) and fluency in 10 computer languages, Mr. Nelson has been building computer automated radio stations and digital studios since he graduated.
"I haven't even had a chance to check out New York because all I've been doing is writing code," said Mr. Nelson. "Although we're just starting .....we know a lot more about what Joe Netsurfer does online or wants to see on the 'net than most people. And now we want to share that, hopefully with some clients."
If that Iowa cornfield magic followed them to New York, clients will come.