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Print chain offers Web site services

Quick-printing chain AlphaGraphics teams with EarthLink and Adobe to offer services for designing and deploying Web sites.

Claiming to be the largest U.S. provider of turnkey Web site services, quick-printing chain AlphaGraphics today will unveil one-stop Web site design, production, hosting, and maintenance services at its 250 locations nationwide.

"We are committed to providing our customers with a choice of media," said Michael Witte, AlphaGraphics chairman and CEO. "We will put messages in print, digital or offset printing, on CD-ROM, or on the World Wide Web."

AlphaGraphics, which is partnering with Internet service provider EarthLink (ELNK) and graphics software publisher Adobe Systems (ADBE) for the service, expects to handle 1,000 new Web sites per month by September, roughly one per week for each store.

AlphaGraphics stores now offer printing, copying, and graphics arts services, primarily to smaller firms.

The company, which actually began offering the Web services on April 1, plans to roll out the new service by September 1 to customers in 22 other countries where 70 AlphaGraphics stores are already in place.

Witte said the Web hosting initiative came after a year-long strategic planning process that included focus groups, where as many as 70 percent of customers said they wanted a Web site within 18 months. "That shocked us," Witte said.

AlphaGraphics will market itself as a reliable, one-stop firm for small companies, saving them the hassle of dealing with multiple, unrelated vendors of technologies that they may not understand.

While rival quick-print chains like Kinko's may offer Web production services or "Web site in a box" programs, Witte said none offer turnkey Web site services on their premises. AlphaGraphics has, since 1984, required its franchisees to offer desktop publishing, so it has what Witte called "a change-ready system."

AlphaGraphics' Web initiative is similar to plans announced a year ago by start-up USWeb, which sought to turn existing online production houses into franchisees to market to smaller companies. However, USWeb now targets high-end sites and intranets and is buying up its affiliates, abandoning the franchise model.

For EarthLink, the AlphaGraphics deal could boost its hosting business dramatically. Hosting accounts for 15 percent of EarthLink's business, said spokeswoman Kirsten Kappos, and the national ISP now hosts 3,000 business Web sites.

AlphaGraphics will use PageMill Web authoring software from Adobe, its longtime supplier of graphics software, in the new service. Witte said 750 AlphaGraphics employees in 20 cities are already trained for the new program.

AlphaGraphics locations will resell EarthLink's unlimited Internet access for $19.95 a month, and most monthly hosting fees will be $150, including reports and monthly content updates. Web site design will be offered for a one-time $250 set-up fee. Production charges will be $150 per page.