New Monday. Or should that be Blue Monday?

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The Independent Online

It's Monday again. No sooner has the Friday night "quick half" turned into a misjudged minicab ride the wrong way round the M25, than it's back to work. If this sounds familiar, VNU's job portal, newmonday.com, claims it can help you wipe the slate clean and start again, and they should know all about that.

It's Monday again. No sooner has the Friday night "quick half" turned into a misjudged minicab ride the wrong way round the M25, than it's back to work. If this sounds familiar, VNU's job portal, newmonday.com, claims it can help you wipe the slate clean and start again, and they should know all about that.

The Dutch publisher has pumped £16m into its new career management and job portal because of a rather embarrassing cock-up over URLs. Apparently, VNU leapt on newmonday.com, a joint venture with global recruitment firm Randstad Holdings, because it had neglected to register the .com version of its job site, jobworld.co.uk. Enter US media company IDG, who swooped in and bought the URL www.jobworld.com, then directed the blissfully unaware prey to its job site, Job Universe.

With dot.com becoming almost the generic term for an online company, regardless of the correct suffix, us Brits have apparently been sailing straight to the .com version of the site and out of VNU's sight. I've been assured by VNU that although the URL jobworld.com was forgotten in the excitement, it is "irrelevant". Apparently, job sites with the word "job" in them are passé anyway, and VNU wanted to give its job service into a more touchy-feely human interface.

OK, so in the new economy someone has to make the first blunder but with the likes of Microsoft and Marks & Spencer both publicly forgetting to update Hotmail.com and to register M&S.com (and escaping by the skin of their teeth) only a few months ago, it's not something you expect a big, supposedly dot.com-savvy company to do.

 

In rude health

While hiding from the Club 18-30 revellers in a Greek taverna last week, I was interrupted by a friendly fellow holidaymaker enthusing about his new nutritional supplements website. Here was a member of the British Pentathlon team who scoffed in the face of Nutravida, a health site which, as we speak, is struggling to raise £1.5m funding before it faces Beechers Brook at the end of this month.

Rather than selling a broad range of vitamins, health foods and beauty products, he is selling niche, expensive cures for things like ME, weight loss and lack of energy, with plans to expand the range.

The problem with a niche market like health is that if you go at it with a niche frame of mind, you might end up with just 40 potential customers, five of whom are online, I thought to myself. Wanting both Olympic sportsmen and women as well as couch potatoes to slurp down the, among other things, "Treasure Teas" on offer, the athlete is splashing the site across the Olympic squad's shirts, but predicts that it will be "the readers of Woman's Own, the 25- to 55-year-old ladies, who will make this company work".

Of course, it makes sense to offer a product or service that can't be found easily offline, otherwise why would one of my colleagues at Revolution magazine decide to buy a can of crickets from Thailand online this week, all in the name of research (and then refuse to eat them due to the lack of sell-by-date on the tin)? But it's just as important to know your audience. Joanna Lumley seemed like a stroke of genius for clickmango in terms of attracting amass audience, who were then rudely subjectedto products no one hadever heard of andcertainly wouldn't put in their mouths.

Arguably the most successful health site to date, ThinkNatural.com, has achieved mass appeal, and has gone down the multi-retail channel route thanks to investment from Kingfisher, the parent company of Superdrug. It's one thing for the athlete to market his products onthe basis that he's passed three dope tests whilebeing on the stuff, but is it really something that Mrs Merton and Lorraine Kelly are going to worry about - or will they stick to good old PG Tips?

 

Women on the verge...

Exactly two weeks after we watched, speechless, a choreographed fireworks display to the Star Wars theme at the e-women party in Kensington, the balloons have popped, the heels snapped off and the champagne has gone flat. The organisation that set about taking the washing machines out of women'se-commerce has closed following disagreements among the four co-founders.

The situation was politely called an "impasse" in the press release, which, if one onlooker is to be believed, translates as "cat fight". "It's a shame to see a group of women who you'd think would be all for co-operation get involved in back stabbing," said someone at the scene. With more than 700 voluntary members joining since its launch eight months ago, co-founder Kathryn Bullock saw a chance and a need to turn the group to profit, while Rachel Coates, Jenny Nabben and Jane Wilson wanted it to remain a collegiate and non-profit making affair. Bullock is keeping tight, starting afresh with e-womenforum. com, with the aim of attracting 5,000 members by the end of 2001. The other three sorrowfully said that they will be pursuing offline networking opportunities.

If most women can agree that they want more than horoscopes and shoes from the internet, despite the best efforts of women's portals like handbag.com and CharlotteStreet.com to convince them otherwise, it's a shame this bunch can't agree on how to become more visible and put their stamp on it.

But before anyone starts making handbags-at-dawn jokes, just remember that people resign from organisations all the time, priorities shift and evolve, without anyone reelingin disappointment that women can disagreeabout business just as much as men.

Lisa.Simmons@haynet.com

Lisa Simmons is a reporter at Revolution magazine

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