Internet entrepreneur Nick Brummitt got such a bee in his bonnet about paying so much money to Google for advertising that he's set up a new online directory to rival the American monster. Brummitt's site – theinternet.co.uk – goes live this weekend and is open to Britain's 6,000 online shops and 1.7 million offline small businesses. Once on the website, they can advertise their businesses with a video profile and videos of their products and services.
The Essex-based businessman claims his new service is a "revolution for online shops and shoppers. They will find a greater variety of shops and a lower price by shopping on theinternet.co.uk". In fact, says Brummitt: "If Carlsberg built a website, they would have built theinternet.co.uk."
The big difference between Brummitt's site and Google is that he will list all the UK's online shops for free but then charge them £30 a month if they want to add video promoting their company. "This is Britain's first dedicated video commerce site allowing visitors to see the people and products behind the screen." Brummitt claims that Google has such a stranglehold over UK small online businesses that he calls Google's Ad Words service the "Google tax". "The advertising fees you have to pay Google are a 'tax' because if you want to sell online, you have to use it."
He's been one of its better customers – spending about £350,000 over the past few years advertising his electronic shop, Cybermarket.-co.uk, with Google. Eventually, he decided to challenge the monster head on by building a cheaper "mousetrap". Coincidentally, a few years before he had bought theinternet.co.uk domain name. "Our new site will allow small businesses to compete with the big boys which can afford to pay their Google 'tax'. Companies such as Argos and Boots are still being caned by Google because they have to pay so much for effective 'key words' – but they can afford it. In order to secure a position on Google's search results, customers have to bid for a premium position.
"In these tough times, it's especially hard for the UK's small businesses to make their web presence known. What our site is doing is allowing all the online shops to promote and show how their goods work."
Online shopping in Britain is booming. Shoppers spent £43.8bn last year on about 6,000 UK internet shopping sites. Since shopping went online, some £200bn has been spent over the net. Books, records and electronic goods have been among the most popular but other consumer goods, such as lingerie, are proving a hit. Now, says Brummitt, they can all be found on his website – he has 24 categories and 137 subcategories. Along with the directory, he's also providing a security check for customers because his site gives access to the Companies House database.
"This is revolutionary for the consumer, because he or she will be able to see everything about the company and its products. The shops can display videos about their company, their products and their services."
The website's video capability is also groundbreaking for Britain's 1.7 million offline businesses and services. Brummitt says: "With big chains dominating the high street, it's been tough for our small shop owners to compete. But now they can by making themselves searchable and visible on our website – for £10 a month.
"The beauty of this is how it will allow local shops and services – excluded from so much business by the Google tax and other high costs – to be online for next to nothing. There's a huge potential here – for selling cars, property, recruitment – all things that are sold in classified ads." Companies are already putting up videos: a mother-and-daughter sausage-making business, Designasausage, and Truffle Trees, a gift business, are two of the quirkier examples.
His "Quote Me" system has been designed to take on the major players in the price comparison universe. His retail site, Cybermarket.co.uk, regularly supplies some 2,000 UK schools and hospitals with products ranging from headphones to electric fans. This experience showed him how often these institutions are not finding the best price for the products they are regularly buying. And that motivated him to add a "Quote Me" system to theinternet.co.uk as a more effective way for them to get a better price.
"I used to get school teachers coming on to my Cybermarket site asking for 400 headphones at £4.99 each. I'm not knocking teachers but they are not experts at buying or negotiating in bulk. But now, for example, teachers will be able to put in a request for tender and then receive the bids from the shops for the products they are looking for. You can see now how this is revolutionary: all government agencies can use it for procurement."
Brummitt is also after eBay. He's planning to launch a "garage" area on the site – a sort of online car boot sale. "The public can have its own virtual 'garage' in which it can display all the stuff that we all have hanging around the garage and loft and offer it to other garage owners – either to buy, trade or swap with each other. I'm sure we've all got fondue sets or bicycles we would like to get rid of but don't want to throw out. This way, we can all recycle our stuff."
It's no surprise that Brummitt comes from a marketing background – he has the gift of the gab and a track record to prove it. He's done everything from importing herbal potions from the US to running his own canning factory in Letchworth making organic foods he sold via Tesco and Sainsbury's.
He launched Cybermarket seven years ago from a warehouse at Great Chesterford in Essex, supplying consumers with all things electronic. That's when he realised quite how powerful Google's dominance has become, and started thinking of ways to beat its hegemony.
Helping him create the new directory are a "dream team" of six seasoned developers from Cambridge and his an American, Chuck Tebbetts, who has worked on websites for everyone from Roxy Music to the Dalai Lama.
To promote the site, Brummitt has teamed up with Peugeot to offer a new 107 car as a prize for one of the 6,000 online shops on his directory. But he admits he will have to pay a little more "Google tax" to help to drive business to theinternet.co.uk. It appears that even David can't go to battle without his Googliath.Reuse content