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Internet

Alliance boosts local Net ads

Internet ad network Flycast signs BellSouth's interactive group to sell local ads for the 500 Web sites on Flycast's network.

Internet ad network Flycast Communications has signed BellSouth's interactive group to sell local ads for the 500 Web sites on Flycast's network.

The announcement comes just two days after DoubleClick announced a similar sales deal with US West.

The alliances, put together, boost the prospects for local banner ads. Both companies have a substantial sales forces with more than 1,000 reps apiece.

"Part of the real growth opportunity [in online advertising] is in the local markets," said John Kelsey, president of Kelsey Group, a consulting firm that follows online directories and city guides. "The fact is that 80 percent of what you buy in products and services, you buy within 10 miles of your home."

Jupiter Communications predicts that localized Internet ads will account for $1.5 billion in spending by the year 2002.

"[US West and BellSouth] are trying to find where they fit in, and their strength is their local sales force," Kelsey added.

DoubleClick Local and Flycast also move beyond targeting users based on the content of sites they visit, as regional sites run by Microsoft, America Online, Yahoo, CitySearch, and local newspapers do.

Though Flycast offers that kind of content targeting, it joins DoubleClick Local, launched in July, in analyzing IP addresses to figure out where a site visitor signs on. That's a stronger version of targeting, DoubleClick contends, because regional sites may be visited by former residents, tourists, and future job-seekers in addition to local residents.

"We are constantly looking for new applications that we can fill with Internet ads, and one of those is local," said George Garrick, Flycast's CEO. "We couldn't do our own sales force, so we went to a reseller agreement with someone who has sales force."

The directory sales forces of both US West's Dex and BellSouth Intelliventures already sell a range of products, including ads in their printed Yellow Page books, online directories, Web site creation, and Web hosting. Localized ad banners will become another offering on that menu.

But Kelsey doesn't think linking ad networks to local sales forces will hurt others trying to sell local advertising, at least in the short term.

"It's way too early to hurt other people--but later, it will do so," he said. "This game is going to play out over several years."

BellSouth Intelliventures' 1,500 local reps will be Flycast's chief sales arm in nine Southern states, including Florida and Georgia. DoubleClick Local will use Dex exclusively for local advertising in its 14-state service area, but DoubleClick retains the ability to sell to regional advertisers.