Last week’s news that America Online plans to buy the online service CompuServe set off widespread fears that the two services would eventually be combined. But industry watchers threw cold water on that notion, citing the vastly different markets for the two online services.
“Those [CompuServe] members won’t be treated differently than in the past,” said Kate Delhagen, senior analyst at Forrester Research. “In time AOL may pitch them the AOL brand [as an additional service]. But it’s just imperative they keep the eyeballs.”
At last count, AOL reported 9 million subscribers; CompuServe had 2.6 million.
Gary Arlen, president of Arlen Communications, a Bethesda, Md.-based research firm, also predicted that the services would remain separate. “AOL would be crazy to drop CompuServe’s distinct identity too soon,” he said.
Early word from AOL supported the theory that CompuServe, which primarily reaches the business market, and AOL, a consumer service, would continue on their separate paths. Not only did AOL officials say that they would uphold the sanctity of the CompuServe brand, but a planned ad campaign from Gotham will launch in October unchanged. “We’re building on the work we’ve had on air to date: no new tag line. . .continuing with the same feel,” explained an AOL representative.
AOL officials had little to say about the possible ad sales leverage AOL could profit from selling the services jointly. “It would be premature to discuss thoughts” of jointly selling ad space on the two services, said Myer Berlow, AOL senior vice president of interactive marketing.
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