Sebastopol, Calif.-based O'Reilly & Associates, an Internet publisher, on Nov. 15 unveils a redesigned, advertiser-sponsored What's New page.
After overseeing the page since its inception in April 1993, the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois turned over publishing, marketing and development responsibilities to O'Reilly last month.
O'Reilly immediately saw commercial opportunities for the page, one of the most popular spots on the 'net-it's accessed more than 120,000 times a day and more than 1 million times a week.
"The What's New page is a brilliant product, giving people a place to start on the Internet, said Lisa Gansky, VP-sales and marketing at O'Reilly's Digital Media Group. "Our online magazine, Global Network Navigator, among others, has embellished that concept and is specifically creating extensions to the What's New page to target specific audiences on the 'net."
O'Reilly is close to signing deals with at least 10 sponsors, all Fortune 100 companies. The first sponsor, believed to be IBM Corp., will appear starting this week.
"Probably 50% of marketers out there don't fully comprehend the huge impact of advertising on the What's New page," said Ms. Gansky. "It's an unbelievable opportunity for companies ... to have brand presence that's been missing from the Internet-based online services."
What's New sponsorship is offered in two-week cycles on an exclusive basis. Sponsors are booked on rotating cycles, to keep the lineup changing.
In addition to initial set-up fees, rates vary depending on ad spending with O'Reilly's Global Network Navigator, a magazine published on the Internet's World Wide Web.
The sponsor charge is 5 cents or less per access per day, contingent upon total spending in Global Network Navigator. If an advertiser spends at least $12,000, the "per access" cost falls. Current GNN advertisers include Nordic Track, Digital Equipment Co. and Delphi Internet Services Co.
Costs can increase as the user goes deeper into the Internet ads. In addition to the advertiser's logo, the What's New sponsor will also have a tagline, allowing the user to access a more sophisticated marketing area.
"We give advertisers enough exposure that they get value from the sponsorship, but not so much exposure that readers feel they're being intruded upon," said Jenny Shore, manager of O'Reilly's interactive advertising sales.
Although O'Reilly's What's New page is the first to offer sponsorships, industry observers predict it's just the beginning.
"Just like other services are creating their own What's New page, we'll probably start seeing more competition for advertiser support for online publications," said John Houston, director of strategic consulting at interactive agency Modem Media, Westport, Conn.
Mosaic Communications, Mountain View, Calif., developer of the NetScape Web browser, is considering offering its own What's New page, a spokeswoman said, but probably won't sell ads on it.
"People will always be looking for where to start on the Internet, so pages like What's New-and our own What's Cool page, which points to the company's personal choices for interesting and fun sites on the 'net-are going to be important in attracting users, and perhaps, for some companies, attracting advertisers," the spokeswoman said.