Internet Portals Fighting For Relevance


Internet portals are fighting to avoid going the way of ISP portals, with some people arguing that more and more people are customizing their homepage and using search to get where they want (and probably bookmarks as well) so the idea of one site offering everything for everybody is becoming obsolete. Aside from the portals themselves (which are backed by some huge companies, both internet and media) the biggest effect would be on advertisers — if the big portals stop being a one-stop-shop for tens of millions of consumers, they stop being a one-stop-shop for advertisers as well. Naturally the portals aren’t sitting still and the Sydney Morning Herald details some of the ways they are trying to attract and keep customers, albeit from an Australian perspective. Among them:
The addition of video, with some interesting figures to back it up — Yahoo7 (the joint effort between Yahoo and Channel 7) served 5.4 million videos in October 2006 compared with 1.3 million for October 2005, and saw its user base grow by 15 percent compared to the market rate of 7 percent. Still, I can’t help thinking that the focus was on video because it’s a sexy topic…the big portals have the benefit of exclusive content from their media partners, but it’s really not that much of an advantage compared to other video sites. I think it’s more a case of not being left behind, and possibly getting more revenue per ad impression.
Personalization. This is likely to be more important in the future because people will want a personalized homepage linking to all the sites and information they want with an easy way to set it up. So far it’s not the magic bullet — Forrester Research did a survey of US citizens and found that 44 percent of respondents had personalized a homepage (a good figure) but only 26 percent use it at least once a week. “While the portals have been successful in getting users to personalize their experiences, only half of those users use it. Portals face a problem in getting users to come back to those personalized pages … even though they find them helpful,” said Forrester Research Charlene Li. Internet portals have been offering personalized homepages for years, gradually refining them and adding extra features such as direct access to information and rich media. It seems the tricky part will be getting the majority of their users to consider them useful…and then to change their habits.
Sticky services: Adding more services and improving existing ones.
Some interesting numbers: Nielsen/NetRatings NetView found Google attracted 8.5 million unique visitors in Australia in September, followed by ninemsn with 7.28 million and Yahoo7 with 4.8 million; ninemsn served up 692 million ad impressions in September while Yahoo7 served 204 million. The paper also did a subjective comparison of the different homepages on offer, with ninemsn losing out because it restricted news sources to the media partner.

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