Women and children will be the most important consumer groups on the Web, according to Harry Motro, the president of Disney's Internet portal, Infoseek.
During his keynote speech at Internet World in Chicago this week, Motro said that childrens' needs in particular were not being addressed adequately on the Internet because content was still mainly work and adult oriented.
But, he continued, children will soon represent 32 per cent of the Web population, while women will also play a crucial role in shaping ecommerce. And the killer app for these groups will be chat sites.
"By 2002, 52 per cent of the people on the Internet will be women. Women control most of the disposable income, so if you plan on making any money, you'd better plan on having a women friendly site. Women are driving ecommerce and kids are driving entertainment " he added.
Infoseek started life as an Internet search engine, but later decided to focus on entertainment as a niche market and partnered with Disney, which has just acquired the remaining stock it did not already own. Disney has now merged the two firm's Internet interests to create the Go Network (see Newswire, 12 July 1999).
Despite Infoseek's association with Disney, Motro acknowledged that all portals looked alike, but said that as broadband became more widely available, Go Network would, in future, enable users to view such videos as TV programmes and enable them to interact using text and data.
He added that the secret of a successful general interest Web site was to ensure it was 'sticky' by giving products away for free. Whereas search engines used to charge customers a fee for searches, portals were now finding other ways of making money such as advertising and offering affiliate programmes with online merchants.
"The key is to get to own the customer, so they do all their transactions on your site. Here branding is ultimate," he said.
To have a successful Web site, users also needed to ensure that they provided adequate links both within their own site and to third party ones - especially new and unusual ones.
He called this "surprise integration" and compared it to Microsoft enabling Office users to share files between its spreadsheet and word processing packages.
But Motto said that to be successful at surprise integration, companies needed to partner with organisations they would never previously have thought of working with. He cited Disney's tie up with Infoseek as just such a combination, saying it gave users access to new content that could be sourced from many different places, including consumers themselves.
He also told the audience to think big. "The bigger you are, the bigger your content, so users get more and your site gets better. Big is a huge advantage," he concluded.
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