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Infoseek says no to adult advertising

The company takes a step to disassociate itself from the racy side of the Web.

Infoseek has taken a step to disassociate itself from the racy side of the Web.

The Web portal confirmed today that it will no longer support sexually explicit advertising banners that peddle adult entertainment products and services. The move comes just before the highly anticipated beta launch of the Go Network, a joint venture between Infoseek and Walt Disney, which sources have told CNET News.com will go live next week.

The move to eliminate the adult ads is no surprise, according to analysts, who said it likely reflects the influence of Disney's staunch policy of maintaining a family-oriented appearance. In addition, Infoseek will offer with the new portal a suite of tools that lets Go users filter out the Net's "red light districts," an Infoseek spokeswoman said.

The Go Network is Disney's bid to challenge Web search directories and content aggregators like Yahoo, AOL.com, Excite, MSN.com, and Lycos.

Disney announced its plans to acquire a 43 percent stake in the Sunnyvale, California-based Infoseek this summer in order to create a portal that could combine the entertainment giant's joint-venture Web properties, such as ESPN SportsZone and ABCNews, with Infoseek's branded search directory and content.

"I don't think any company affiliated with Disney will have a relationship with adult-oriented advertisers," said Evan Neufeld, an analyst at Jupiter Communications.

And given the number of families trying to prevent their children from accessing the Internet's darker side, Neufeld noted that a Web property that opts out of dicey advertising could experience a positive response. "If one person says, 'We're a safe and free environment, and we don't accept pornographic advertisements,' that could be a competitive edge," he said.

Adult entertainment sites have managed to extend their reach and gain profitability by way of extensive advertising on highly trafficked Web sites. Market research firm Forrester Research predicted that the online adult entertainment industry would generate revenues of $185 million in 1998--showing a steady increase from the $101 million reported for 1996 and the $137 million reported for 1997.

Yet despite Infoseek's policy change, other portal leaders--Yahoo, Excite, and Lycos notwithstanding--are continuing to welcome adult entertainment advertising. Such advertising is attractive because of its narrowly targeted audience and its revenue potential. Nevertheless, an Infoseek spokeswoman noted that in the year or so that the company did accept adult ads, it often proved to be a very difficult area of advertising to manage.