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Internet

Firms focus on Net ads

Two companies announce new programs to put more power into the hands of businesses interested in advertising on the Internet.

    Two companies announced new programs yesterday to put more power into the hands of businesses interested in advertising on the Internet.

    With Web advertising becoming an increasingly established business, companies are constantly seeking ways to streamline their ad buys and benefit from their investments at the same time. Both BigBook, an online yellow page service, and Narrowline, a company focusing on Internet advertising, have unveiled solutions that they think will help in the process.

    In keeping with an ongoing trend, BigBook announced that it will allow businesses to use its proprietary software to build and maintain their own Web pages on the service for $25 a month.

    BigBook's competitor, Switchboard, last month launched a very similar program, giving local businesses a Web presence. Their sites started at $195 a year.

    Other companies have reported offering similar packages, which isn't surprising, according to Rich LeFurgy, chairman of the Internet Advertising Bureau and senior vice president of advertising at ESPN/ABC Internet.

    "What BigBook is doing will help the Web be actionable and usable for every business, and that's one the things that the Internet sorely needs because the Web itself is fairly intimidating for the average business owner," he said.

    BigBook's move is aimed at smaller businesses that can't afford to pay for huge corporate sites but nevertheless want sites over which they have full control, according to BigBook CEO Kris Hagerman.

    "We were hearing from a lot of small businesses that said, 'I'm glad you're building Web sites, but I want to be in control of the thing,'" he said. "Most importantly, they want to update it whenever they want."

    In turn, BigBook will be able to use the Web pages to promote its service, which competes head on with several other players that are doing everything they can to win the Net content battle.

    Separately, a relative newcomer to the Web called Narrowline has created a new site that aims to become an open marketplace for buyers and sellers of Web advertising.

    The business is geared toward both Web producers and advertisers of all sizes; it aims to bring them together in one space where they can quickly buy and sell Net ads. Narrowline gets a small percentage of each sale.

    Tara Lemay, chairwoman and CEO of Narrowline, said she's been on both sides of the fence and concluded that the current model for buying and selling ads is too slow and cumbersome and has the effect of hampering, rather than encouraging, the new media market.

    "By creating this, you now have a way for buyers and sellers to log on and do business with each other directly," she added. "The speed of the Internet is really critical. You can disseminate and change information so quickly."

    The system "starts to take advantage of the indigenous nature of the Internet," Lemay said. More than 75 businesses have signed up for the service dubbed "Brought to you By," according to Narrowline.

    The IAB's LeFurgy noted that if successful, the primary beneficiary of Narrowline probably will be the smaller sites that don't have the sales force needed to develop advertising campaigns. Large sites probably will stick with their way of doing things, at least for the time being, because they get customized packages.

    "This is yet another way that entrepreneurs are trying to figure out a way to make the online medium viable," he said. "What you're seeing here is the industry trying to come to terms with a glut of inventory on the seller's side."