By Laura Rich
CNET launches its biggest effort to draw consumers online with the debut today of a combined CD-ROM and Web service called Snap! Online.
'(Snap! Online) will pull together all components of a true online service,' according to CNET chief executive Halsey Minor.
The new product is part online service, part directory and part tutorial. CNET plans to get an audience for Snap! by bundling it in computers and inking distribution deals with marketers and Internet service providers. So far, CNET has signed up ISPs AT&T WorldNet, MCI, Sprint, BellSouth, Earthlink Network and Concentric Network. CNET is currently in discussions with marketers including Merrill Lynch, Citibank, Procter & Gamble and Barnes & Noble.
Essentially, partners will co-brand Snap! with their own logo, greeting users who log on with their brand first. First-time Internet users will be taken through a Web how-to and then launched on to the Snap! Web site, which will be emblazoned with the distribution partner's brand. For marketers, CNET will be able to distribute a disk branded with its logo and featuring special content from that marketer.
Ideally, Snap! wants to sign tri-partite marketing deals that would combine a marketer, an ISP and a computer manufacturer, Minor said.
Observed Peter Storck, group director, online advertising at Jupiter Communications: 'Instead of creating all these disks themselves and mailing them out, they've got three categories of distributors to do it for them.'
Minor sees Snap! as a competitor to America Online. However, he said, on Snap! advertisers can build the service within their own branded environments, rather than vice versa. He added that Snap! competes with Yahoo! because it offers a guide to the Web along with special content from online partners.
'The best thing (about Snap!) is that I can take a brand and tell (the advertiser) they can deliver a service,' said Steve Klein, media director at Kirshenbaum Bond & Partners.
Roxanne Takara, vice president, Grey Interactive, endorsed the non-banner advertising opportunities within the service, including 'bricks,' larger than a banner, that link to additional information.
Advertisers can also target Snap! users through zip codes required when signing on to the service. As for the service as a whole, Takara said, 'It will go a long way to making the Web more consumer-friendly.'
-with Anya Sacharow
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