Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education



Front Page

World

UK

UK Politics

Business

Sci/Tech

Health

Education

Sport

Entertainment

Talking Point

In Depth

On Air

Archive
Feedback
Low Graphics
Help

Monday, July 19, 1999 Published at 14:46 GMT 15:46 UK


Sci/Tech

AOL's free ISP targets 'lads'

Lads' mag Maxim sums up Netscape Online's target audience

By Internet Correspondent Chris Nuttall

America Online, the world's largest online service, has finally joined the subscription-free Internet access revolution, announcing Netscape Online, a new "laddish" Internet Service Provider (ISP) for the UK.


AOL's David Phillips: "Aiming at Internet DIYer"
AOL Europe, AOL's partnership with the Bertelsmann media group, has been slow to respond to the free ISP challenge led by the Dixons group's freeserve, which now has 1.3 million members and is due to float on the stock exchange next month.

AOL UK lost its Number One ISP spot to freeserve and was forced to slash its unlimited-net-access subscription rate from £16.95 to £9.99 in May.

AOL's multi-brand strategy

But AOL UK still has 600,000 subscribers, its sister service Compuserve has 400,000 and the introduction of Netscape Online suggests it at last has a strategy in place to take on its free ISP competitors:

  • AOL UK will remain the flagship subscription service, aimed at the mainstream consumer market. AOL says 33p a day is still good value for a family wanting free technical support and a safe online environment. AOL UK users spend 80% of their time within the proprietary service rather than out on the Net. AOL 5.0 software is due late this year, including AOL Radio.

  • Compuserve UK will stay a subscription service, despite rumours to the contrary, aimed at the professional user. The next, more Web-friendly version of the software, Compuserve 2000, will be released in September. TravelAgent, a business travel service and Portfolio, a poweful online share portfolio, have been announced.

  • Netscape Online will be targeted at what AOL identifies as a particular type of user signing up with free ISPs - young, male and Net-savvy. It will create its own editorial aimed at this "laddish" market and establish content partnerships with the likes of Maxim, Sportsline Europe, Games Domain and Guardian Unlimited.

New slice of Net pie

AOL UK's Managing Director David Phillips says Netscape Online can be the best in its class with its "cool" brand name and services. He feels the content of rivals such as freeserve fails to appreciate the audience they are serving.


[ image: David Phillips: Multi-brand AOL]
David Phillips: Multi-brand AOL
"It's twentysomething, more male, more single. We think there's a gap between their offering and their market audience. Eighty-seven per cent of it is male, earning less than £19,000, we think we can focus on that demographic."

Mr Phillips disputes that AOL has lost market share in the face of the free ISP movement, claiming AOL UK has 1.5m actual users.

"We have taken time to study this, asked whether this is undermining our flagship position or whether it's creating a new segment. We believe this is a separate value segment, a new slice of the Net pie."

Netscape Online will launch in mid-August with local call access, 20Mb of free Webspace, unlimited e-mail addresses and 50p-a-minute technical support for members by telephone.

Analysts gave a lukewarm reception to the announcement:

"Our research shows that rather than there being different users, its users having different needs," said Shobhit Kakkar of Fletcher Research.

"The average Net user has 1.4 ISP accounts and 71% of AOL users have more than one account. Netscape Online is a great Internet brand but will AOL members use AOL UK for its content and then Netscape to surf the Web?

" It's a sensible move and I don't think they're coming too late to the market because the switching barriers between free ISPs are very low."



Advanced options | Search tips




Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©


Sci/Tech Contents


Relevant Stories

12 Jul 99 | The Company File
Freeserve gets a price tag

11 May 99 | Sci/Tech
AOL cuts prices in Net war

07 May 99 | Sci/Tech
Free ISPs give UK the lead

21 Jul 99 | Sci/Tech
AOL empire to strike back





Internet Links


Maxim

Netscape Online

AOL UK

freeserve


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.




In this section

World's smallest transistor

Scientists join forces to study Arctic ozone

Mathematicians crack big puzzle

From Business
The growing threat of internet fraud

Who watches the pilots?

From Health
Cold 'cure' comes one step closer