McAfee Opens Door to Broad Portal Strategy
Though Yahoo!'s stock orbits higher than ever in the waning days of 1998, it's nevertheless become something of a faux pas among digital insiders to speak of Internet "portals"--at least without flashing the wry, knowing expression of someone who's already survived a few online revolutions. Instead, savvy pundits whistle a less sweeping rendition of the portal tune, dwelling on the opportunities for "vertical" or "targeted" portals that attract particular groups, like investors or jocks or MIS types.
Enter the "smart portal," the name that virus-and-utlity software firm McAfee--owned by Santa Clara, Calif-based Network Associates--is giving to its new Internet on-ramp at www.mcafee.com, which officially goes into beta on Monday. As Network Associates worldwide marketing vp Srivats Sampath describes it, McAfee's "smart portal" will be targeted, in a sense--but not for IS staff, or computer security freaks, or any group one would associate with antivirus software. Rather, McAfee Online will go after a horizontal audience: all computer-literate, early-adopter types who want more functionality out of their portal than Yahoo!, Excite or Snap! have to offer. "I'm not looking at competing with Yahoo! and Infoseek--I want about 40 percent of what they have, the people on the leading edge," Sampath says."If a newbie came to our site, they'd have a hard time understanding all of the services."
The services he's referring to currently comprise ActiveX applets for purging viruses and reclaiming disk space, as well as the now-standard email, contacts, calendaring and--via a partnership with Visto--a virtual online briefcase. NA plans to add new functionality as fast as it can convert its 70-plus PC utilities for online deployment. The company plans to make money from McAfee Online by selling ad space and by charging a subscription (about $5 a month) for full-service users. Sampath concedes that his ambitious plans for a newcomer in a crowded portal marketplace depend on driving traffic to the site. Network Associates will run TV ads for McAfee Online on NBC (via a content partnership with the NBC-owned portal Snap!) beginning in January. A radio campaign and print ads in general business books will also launch in the first quarter. Sampath puts the entire campaign "in the millions of dollars.
E-Greetings the Next Big Portal
Digital greeting card sites are climbing up the traffic ratings scale lately. But San Francisco's E-greetings Network is not about cards, says Tony Levitan, co-founder and "creator of chaos," as his business card states. "We want to be a hub for communication and commerce," he says. "In the not too distant future, two of the 15 top web sites will be digital greetings sites."
Levitan talks impressions like a media maven. Partners such as Excite, Hotmail and America Online delivered more than 2.5 billion exposures for E-greetings' service in 1998. During the holiday period, the company delivered 100,000 digital greetings a day in December and 250,000 on Christmas day alone. During that period, the site acquired 20,000 to 30,000 new customer registrations per day--a pace that "hasn't dropped off as much as we thought it might,"he notes.
Such a volume of impressions already makes an attractive media buy. But Levitan wants to transform email-based communication. Capturing a small percentage of current email traffic would easily add billions of impressions to the Network. "[We] could be bigger than Yahoo!," Levitan crows.
Viewing the service as enhanced email, the company started simply with graphics in a postcard. Next are audio and video and a separate site for business users. "Only 9 percent of our deliveries are for birthdays," Levitan says. "People are using us for everyday communication."
All ads carry the tagline, "Make sure they get it," and are split in half between just a text email and a graphic-enhanced e-greeting. In one ad, for example, one half includes text that says, "he finally gave it to me last night. it's huge." The illustrated half superscripts the text with the picture of a wedding ring, while the other half leaves much room for mis-interpretation.
The total ad budget in 1999 is $10 million. The second phase of the campaign will start in late February.
E-Greetings hopes to leverage timely events, such as Clinton's impeachment trial and the Super Bowl, to drive people to the site to see e-greetings. "We can either congratulate or commiserate," Levitan says. "We will be able to reinforce the spontaneity of the medium."