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Net community tries mainstream ads

Community site the Globe launches an $8 million advertising campaign, with most of the funds going toward ads in traditional media.

As the battle for membership rages on among the online communities, one player,, has decided to break out the big advertising guns.

The privately held company announced today the launch of its first advertising campaign--in which it is spending $8 million to get its message to potential members and visitors.

Television ads will run through May on national cable networks such as Comedy Central, E, CNN, and ESPN. Beginning in April, 30-second spots will run on local affiliates of the major networks such as ABC and NBC in New York, San Francisco, Boston, Denver, Seattle, and Atlanta, the company said.

Print ads will hit newsstands in June in publications such as Spin, Wired, Details, and Playboy.The company's target audience is people 18 to 38 years old who are not yet on the Internet, according to spokesman John Kaminski.

Online communities are part of an ongoing war among browser companies such as Netscape Communications, search companies such as Yahoo, online services such as America Online, and others to become Netizens' home page and the place they turn to for a variety of services including Web space, free email, and paging services.

If these sites can attract loyal users who visit often and stay for extended periods of time, they stand to attract ever-more-elusive ad dollars. Many sites rely solely on ad dollars to stay afloat--though some, such as Globe rival GeoCities, have turned to e-commerce for additional revenue.

Partnerships are another method Net companies use to garner loyal eyeballs. Today, for example, Yahoo and MCI Internet launched a cobranded gateway with Yahoo content and MCI connectivity, for an introductory price of $14.95 per month for three months.

For its part, GeoCities has looked into advertising on traditional media, and doesn't rule it out as a potential approach for the future. But it has no immediate plans to do so, according to Dick Hackenberg, GeoCities vice president of marketing.

Though the Globe's new plan will "do a good job of creating awareness and will improve [the Globe's] member sign-ups," GeoCities for now is "focusing more on our online strategy," Hackenberg said.

He said GeoCities is "approaching 1.5 million members this month," and receives 10 million to 12.5 million unique visitors per month. With that traffic, as well as banner-swapping deals with Yahoo (which invested $5 million in equity in GeoCities in January), "the sheer size of GeoCities and our partnerships will yield significant new memberships."

Research firm RelevantKnowledge last week listed GeoCities as the seventh-most visited site on the Web in February. The Globe says it has 1.2 million members and receives 100 million page views per month.

Other Net companies have turned to creative approaches to advertising--and doing so in traditional media such as print, television, radio, and billboards--to reach Net users. Yahoo has done quirky, cartoonish ads on television as well as more straightforward "user experience" ads on radio. Search company Infoseek's ads on radio weave elaborate, though tongue-in-cheek, plots around its motto: "Once you know, you know."

Other search companies, such as Excite, have taken a different approach altogether to advertising online, buying Net advertising services firms such as MatchLogic. MatchLogic says its approach is designed to "help online advertisers deliver the right ad, to the right person, with the right offer, at the right time...and know within seconds if that ad was successful."

The Globe hasn't turned its back on Net advertising, however. As part of the overall $8 million investment, $2.4 million will be dedicated to online advertising including banners on Excite, Playboy, and Yahoo.

"As the Internet becomes increasingly mainstream,'s significant commitment to mass market media like television and consumer print is consistent with our belief that is truly a mass market brand," Stephan Paternot, president of the Globe, said in a statement.

The Globe, which was founded in 1994, offers members home page space and building tools, email, chat, discussion forums, multiplayer gaming, and a Marketplace area featuring retailers such as Barnes & Noble, CDnow, FAO Schwarz, and PC Flowers.