Rick Boyce

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Rick Boyce, an Internet pioneer in the truest sense, was part of the team at HotWired that sold the first banner ads on the Net in 1994.

" There was no place to advertise on the Internet before HotWired," recalls Mr. Boyce, now 37 and newly named president of networks for Internet group snowball.com. "The fact that we weren't repurposing Wired magazine online was a big deal. And the notion that we could support this thing with ad revenue was a unique concept."

In 1994, Mr. Boyce was VP-associate media director at Hal Riney & Partners, San Francisco. He was working in the Brand Futures Unit, a group set up to study emerging technologies, when someone showed him the Internet.

"It was clear to me that I wanted to work on the Internet; it was clear that a new medium was being born," he says.

In September of that year, his friend Dana Lyon, VP-associate publisher of Wired, invited him to become ad director at HotWired, the magazine's online arm.

HotWired went live Oct. 27, 1994, with 12 sponsors (see story Page 106), including AT&T Corp. and Volvo Cars of North America.

Unlike today, when ad-serving companies offer a full suite of services to build, serve and track ads, in those days there was no off-the-shelf software to perform these tasks. Everything had to be created from scratch.

"There were no tools," he recalls.

Still, Mr. Boyce says, they reported click-throughs to clients weekly. "Click-throughs at the time ranged from 10% at the low end to a high end of 50%," he says. "It was a time of exploration. It was all new."

Mr. Boyce spent the next six years as VP-advertising sales at Wired Digital, the unit overseeing Wired's online properties -- HotWired, HotBot and Wired News. He also oversaw sales on a site for Web designers called WebMonkey and the irreverent online zine Suck.

"We always felt that it was critical that we try to lead the industry," Mr. Boyce says of the content that Wired Digital developed. Early on, the company updated its sites frequently and made archived information available, a practice that wasn't widespread at the time.

Wired Digital also took an experimental approach to advertising. The HotWired list of firsts, Mr. Boyce says, include some of the first animated ads and serving the first ad on a Palm digital organizer in 1998. The ad, for Hilton Hotels, was created in-house and ran on Wired News.

Wired Digital was spun off from Wired when the publication was sold to Conde Nast Publications. In 1998, Lycos purchased Wired Digital and turned it into a division of the portal.

Mr. Boyce is still pushing to stay on the leading edge. Last month, he left Wired, where he was VP-advertising sales, to become president of networks for snowball.com, a network of sites aimed at 13- to 30-year-olds. Snowball calls this group generation I, for a generation that's grown up with the Internet. The network had 6.3 million visitors in February, according to Media Metrix, ranking No. 29 among all Internet properties. Its sites include ChickClick.com, eGuide.com and PowerStudents.com.

"The initial attraction was the demographic that snowball serves," Mr. Boyce says. "The Internet is an integral part of their lives. I think for marketers that's going to create tremendous new opportunities."

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