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Netpulse Targets Captive and Lucrative Audience

For half an hour a day, Internet media company Netpulse, San Francisco, is offering online retailers the attention of what it calls the hardest demographic in the country to reach – fitness club members – at a time when they are most likely to respond to offers.

Netpulse is the designer of Netpulse Stations, which sit atop exercise bikes, stair climbers and other cardiovascular exercise machines in health clubs across the country. Netpulse Stations offer gymgoers the ability to surf the Web, shop online and check and send e-mail.

“The gym-going demographic is an affluent and educated bunch that doesn’t spend much time sitting in front of the TV or surfing the Web,” said Adam Handelsman, director of public relations at Netpulse.

“We have them captive for a half hour, during which time they will most likely be looking for some type of distraction,” he said. “When you’re pedaling or doing a StairMaster, the last thing you want to think about is the workout. And because of the setup of our window, advertisers can be sure that their ads are going to be seen by the people working out.”

Handelsman said about 300,000 people use Netpulse Stations per month. He expects that number to grow to about 1 million by the end of 1999. Netpulse Stations can be found in 16 of the top 25 fitness franchises and chains in the United States, including Crunch and the New York Health and Racquet Club, CSI in Atlanta and the East Bank Club In Chicago.

During the workout, scrolling banner-type ads containing links to company Web sites appear on the bottom quarter of the Netpulse screen.

While the average click through rate for banner ads on the Web is less than 1percent, the rate for a Netpulse ad is more than 2.5 percent, Handelsman said.

Ad space also is reserved on the “cardio home page,” which all exercisers must go through. Netpulse Stations also offer TV viewing and a tape and CD player.

About 20 companies have advertising agreements with Netpulse, Handelsman said. They include iVillage.com, Toyota, amazon.com, Bank of America, General Motors and fogdog sports.

Regional, local and national ad campaigns are also available for small- and medium-sized businesses.

Other features of the Netpulse Station include rich media, full-motion video ads with a “click-to-video campaign” feature that launches a full-screen, 30-second to 45-second video commercial and a high-speed Internet connection. There also is a touch-screen keyboard that allows users to type in URLs and e-mail messages.

Netpulse and its advertisers also offer a number of incentive programs.

The most popular one is the Mile-A-Minute program in which exercisers can earn one frequent-flier mile for every minute they work out. Participating airlines are American Airlines, United Airlines, Northwest Airlines and America West. To this point, it has given away more than 1.5 million miles to exercisers.

The cost for a Netpulse Station is a flat fee of $3,000 per unit for the gym. Netpulse picks up the charges for the Web access.

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