MyWay.com Takes Anti-DM Approach

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If one were to go by yesterday's press release announcing its first ad campaign, it would be practically impossible to tell that the founders of just-launched portal MyWay.com are direct marketers. And that's fine with them.


The Excite Network, which until a year ago was called iWon.com, yesterday began promoting its new banner- and pop-up-free search site with a campaign dubbed, "Yahoo! is Toast."


The campaign, which consists of online media and 30-second radio spots in 38 markets until Nov. 27, aims to capitalize on what The Excite Network's executives perceive as an increasing dissatisfaction with Yahoo's attempts to turn its massive user base into revenue through direct marketing.


"As Yahoo and others have utilized increasingly aggressive advertising and direct marketing tactics, users are becoming further frustrated," said Bill Daugherty, co-CEO, The Excite Network, Irvington, NY. "MyWay offers a refreshing alternative to this approach, and our advertising reflects that."


MyWay.com gets its revenue from sponsored search results through a partnership with search site Google.com. Plans also are in the works to earn revenue by offering travel services and personals advertising on MyWay.com at some point in the future, Daugherty said. He added that MyWay.com should be profitable in its first month.


Among Yahoo marketing tactics with which Daugherty claims users have become fed up are rich media ads sliding across the screen and interfering with users' ability to accomplish their tasks. He cited a recent privacy policy change at Yahoo as another reason he contends Yahoo users are getting weary.


In April, Yahoo sent e-mails to its registered users informing them that it had opted them into receiving information from Yahoo in 13 marketing categories and gave them 60 days to change their preferences before it sent any information in accordance with them.


Moreover, Daugherty contends, "If you go to Yahoo today, it's got 35 to 40 advertising or promotional links on their home page. That's dramatically different than it was two years ago, and their users have noticed."


Yahoo's user base is apparently no worse for the wear, however. It claims its global audience, excluding Yahoo Japan, was 201 million unique users in September 2002, up from 177 million in September 2001. Also, Yahoo claims that 93 million active registered users logged onto Yahoo's network in September 2002, up from 68 million in September 2001.


"Yahoo consumers stay longer and consume more pages on the network than users of any other portal," chairman/CEO Terry Semel said in Yahoo's most recent quarterly earnings statement.


However, Daugherty claims that in focus groups, nearly 80 percent of Yahoo users said they'd switch to MyWay.com.


Ironically, Daugherty in DM News in February credited his company's two-plus years of experience direct marketing on iWon.com for helping it turn a profit with Excite.com's member base. The company jointly spent $10 million with online directory InfoSpace Inc. a year ago to buy Excite.com's registered users' e-mail addresses and user names. The sale was part of defunct broadband provider Excite@Home's bankruptcy deal and included iWon's purchase of the Excite.com URL and logo. For comparison, @Home spent $6.7 billion to acquire Excite.com in 1999.


IWon.com, which claims 13 million registered users, offers a chance to win $10,000 a day in exchange for registration information and permission to deliver pitches on advertisers' behalves.


"That's the trade-off, and users understand and appreciate it," Daugherty said. "On iWon and Excite, we treat people's personal information very seriously, and we're upfront with exactly how we use it. That's what people appreciate. What they don't want is a lack of clarity or change."


Excite.com claims 7.9 million registered users. MyWay.com, however, will not collect registration information.


"We're trying to take as little information as possible [on MyWay.com]," he said.


He added that Excite.com and iWon.com are aimed at different audiences than MyWay.com, and that MyWay will be treated as a distinct company and brand from the other two.


"You're never going to see cross-promotion on one or the other. They're different properties aimed at different people," he said. "This is classic marketing segmentation. Not to be grandiose, but it's like Time Warner operating the WB. You don't get much more different properties than those two, but they live in the same house comfortably."


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