WorldPrints, Webshots Picture Big Bucks

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Two leading providers of free screensavers and wallpaper are leveraging their mass volumes of Web site traffic into mass amounts of dollars.


WorldPrints.com began as an e-commerce site selling prints of pop art, photography and fine art reproductions. To generate traffic, it gave away free screensavers and wallpaper. The free artwork caused a stampede of traffic prompting them to shift their revenue building focus from e-commerce to allowing banner advertising on the site. The first ads will appear in January.


"In 2000, our e-commerce sales will be dwarfed by our total ad sales," said Chris Lynde, vice president of sales and marketing for WorldPrints.com, Boulder, CO.


The site claims it has grown from 50,000 page views per day to more than 1 million. WorldPrints encourages users to register their demographic information in order to receive new images. It anticipates it will have 1.5 million registered users by the end of this month.


The site will use this database to lure big bucks from advertisers. "We're collecting names, street and e-mail addresses and cookies. This demographic information will help drive up ad sales," according to Lynde. "Plus there are natural matches." For example, pet food suppliers will likely buy space near the cat wallpaper downloads and golf suppliers near the golf course screensavers.


It was announced on Dec. 13 that WorldPrints' chief competitor, Webshots.com, was purchased by Excite@Home for $85 million in stock. Webshots.com claims it receives 120 million page views and users download more than 25 million digital photographs a month.


Webshots currently has banner advertising on its site and actually turned a profit this year.


"Digital photography and images is a very popular and lucrative area on the Web," said Eric Jorgensen, director of product marketing for community products for Excite@Home, Redwood City, CA. "And we think we'll be even more effective selling advertising using MatchLogic and sponsorships."


Lynde refused to comment directly about the acquisition, but did speculate about the future of his own company. "We're continuing to work on large deals ourselves," he said. "We fully anticipate taking our company to market in the not too distant future. We have ongoing discussions with a number of interested parties."


In October and November, WorldPrints doubled its subscriber base in large part to a $2.5 million marketing campaign.


The site hopes to continue driving up these numbers through it marketing efforts in 2000. "We will definitely be spending millions of dollars over the course of the next year on advertising," said Lynde.


WorldPrints ad buys consist mostly of banner ads. According to Lynde, the use of celebrity faces on the more than a thousand banner ads it has produced draw an excellent click-through rate. WorldPrints.com estimates that it is getting one registration per 600 banner impressions.
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