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Excite wants to be "me" engine

In attempting to maintain its No. 2 standing, Excite is focusing on personalization, the company?s CEO says.

SAN FRANCISCO--In attempting to maintain its No. 2 standing in the navigation space, Excite (XCIT) is focusing on building itself around "me," the company?s chief executive said today.

Mirroring the efforts of its competition, Excite is trying to broaden its offerings and expand its revenue streams, as well as bolster user loyalty--something analysts have said is one of the biggest challenges in building audience share. One way Excite has been working these goals is by adding to the "My" section of its service with offerings called "My news" and "My stocks."

"Building the service around the market of 'me' is really the power of delivery on the Web," George Bell, Excite's chief executive officer, said during a presentation at the BancAmerica Robertson Stephens Technology '98 conference here.

Excite's new initiatives, however, probably aren't going to accomplish much in terms of differentiating the company from other navigational services, like Yahoo (YHOO), which also has been promoting its personalized services.

But Bell said that second place isn?t such a bad position to be in.

"There is a very clear No. 1 in this category and there is a very clear No. 2," Bell said. "We started Excite one-and-a-half years after Yahoo, and we have come from a distant spot."

The company continues to gain momentum through its partnerships with America Online (AOL) and Intuit?s (INTU) Quicken. Excite's deal with AOL, which makes it the exclusive search service for users of the paid online service, drives traffic, as does its project with Intuit, called Business & Investing by Quicken.

Bell also stressed that the company's revenue model has expanded beyond banner advertising. "Our business model has changed. Six months ago, we were 100 percent dependent on ad banners," said Bell. Now Excite's revenue is only 64 percent dependent on banners, with the other 36 percent coming from real estate, which guarantees advertisers a certain number of impressions, then splits the revenue generated from shuttling users to the advertiser's Web site.

Excite also offers a personalized shopping agent, another initiative that is contributing to its transaction-based revenue. The agent enables users to search for specific shopping categories ranging from cigars to books. Wine will be added to the category list next week.

The company's next phase of revenue-generation will come from its ability to track users patterns, Bell said.

"We can track people. We know where they go and what they do on the Web. Then we can say to our advertisers what our customers are interested in," he said. "We are improving the probability of a [converted customer with our offerings] and heightening the possibility of a sale," by offering advertising that is associated with user patterns.