Excite, Dow Jones Form BTB Marketing

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The online business-to-business market might have gotten a glimpse of a new 800-pound gorilla with the formation of Work.com, a joint venture announced this week between Excite@Home and financial news stalwart Dow Jones & Co.


"We think the opportunity here is certainly at least the size of Excite all over again," said George Bell, president/CEO of the Web portal and Net service provider.


The move combines the news site dowjones.com and an existing Excite business services site already called Work.com. The new company, which Excite and Dow Jones hope to turn into a separate publicly traded entity this year, will try to lure small and medium-sized businesses that buy products and services online.


The bait will be business content from New York-based Dow Jones, the overseer of the same-named U.S. stock index and the publisher of The Wall Street Journal, Barron's and the Dow Jones Newswires, among others. Excite, Redwood City, CA, contributes online infrastructure and ready-made Net traffic amounting to millions of unique monthly visitors.


The companies claimed broader services than the office supply and technical support sites that cater to small and mid-sized businesses, and boasted of stronger content than other major portal players.


"I think that the competitive landscape is relatively thin," Bell said.


Still, it's out there. Perhaps most notably, Microsoft Corp.'s MSN has online services for small businesses and carries news from MSNBC. Portal rivals Yahoo Inc. and Lycos Inc. have long-established business sections on their sites. And Web destinations such as ChamberBiz provide a medium for BTB transactions along with news from the Associated Press and other sources.


NBC, which owns CNBC television operations with Dow Jones, is not part of the Work.com venture.


Excite lends business services through existing partnerships with postage company E-Stamp, administrative services firm Freeworks.com and Biztravel.com, among others. Work.com will build or license other services. The site will be broken into 29 separate industry channels, from biotechnology to food and tobacco.


But remarks from Dow Jones and Excite executives indicate that the partners are banking on Dow Jones' content to build loyalty among businesses trawling the Net for services, products and news.


"Small and medium-sized companies are where the growth is in this economy, especially the new economy," said Dow Jones senior vice president of electronic publishing Gordon Crovitz. "They've been a key constituency of The Wall Street Journal for nearly 20 years, and the Internet has now made it possible for Dow Jones to reach out to them electronically as well as in print."


The news giant already has put that theory to the test, proving itself a rarity among online content providers by managing to charge subscription fees for access to its news. Introduced in June, dowjones.com had revenue of $2.5 million in the fourth quarter of 1999.


Excite and Dow Jones will each own half of Work.com and have equal representation on its board. The companies have yet to name a CEO. Work.com will be based in Redwood City, with editorial operations in the New York area.
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