Shop till you log off

New Media
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The Independent Online

It's a bit like Groundhog Day at the moment. Last week the on-line music store Borrowbob (no relation to Builder) sent out an e-mail to customers telling them not to wait in for their CDs as they wouldn't be arriving, following the MD's resignation and an unfortunate financial slide. Even a big player like auction site QXL.com is feeling the squeeze and is searching for funding from a strategic partnership to carry it over the next year. With so much coverage being given to the poor business practice or sheer bad luck of many dot.coms, we must not forget the established, corporate companies who are revamping their businesses.

It's a bit like Groundhog Day at the moment. Last week the on-line music store Borrowbob (no relation to Builder) sent out an e-mail to customers telling them not to wait in for their CDs as they wouldn't be arriving, following the MD's resignation and an unfortunate financial slide. Even a big player like auction site QXL.com is feeling the squeeze and is searching for funding from a strategic partnership to carry it over the next year. With so much coverage being given to the poor business practice or sheer bad luck of many dot.coms, we must not forget the established, corporate companies who are revamping their businesses.

Look at Boots, which has just signed a deal with Granada Media to launch a joint TV channel, internet and broadband company. There are plans to scrap Boots.co.uk and launch a re-branded site and a TV channel early next year. It is determined not to be one of the 60 per cent of major retailers, who according to a report by Deloitte Consulting, have lost profits and market share by failing to serve a new breed of consumer. That's the one using a WAP comparison service before logging onto a shopping directory, whilst sitting slumped in front of digital TV, flicking through a catalogue and making a quick visit to the high street before going back and buying the first thing they saw.

It seems new media will make life increasingly difficult for us shopping retards who, after hours of sweat and pain, return to the first shop to buy something we didn't even want in the first place.

Big guns shy from Net

The fingers pointing at the likes of Borrowbob, and last week Urbanfetch, have rested on the fact that once funding has run out, other revenue streams are not sufficiently developed to sustain business. We are deluged with facts and figures about e-commerce, but the other big problem is getting big advertising budgets onto the web. Whilst IBM has just followed British Airways and FT.com's lead, by investing in the latest internet "superstitial" ads - a real in-your-face television style ad that appears between web pages - there is still a lack of complete trust in the medium.

But things are starting to change, with Volvo announcing that, in partnership with AOL, it plans to spend less than $10m on online advertising in the US for its new S60 Sedan, and not a penny on TV. It's a vote of confidence for online advertising we could do with here. We got a minor boost last week, when the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) launched a kite mark scheme, called admark for online advertisers, to put consumers at ease with the medium. Until consumers turn clicks into transactions, the advertisers will hold back.

Most complaints to the ASA about online ads are from consumers who have been led up the garden path. Earlier this year, LineOne was criticised for running a banner ad that looked exactly like a Microsoft Windows warning box. When users clicked to close it, they were taken to LineOne's site. Naughty but nice. With more use of rich media, advertisers are going to have to tread a fine line between engaging campaigns and tripping people up.

Checkmate, sports.com

I've always put chess in the same category as snooker and darts - a broadcasting event that only ever appealed as a student, when during times of revision or dissertation, it became an engrossing, stay-up-all-night-to-watch event. But, if you're missing the seat-gripping coverage of the Sydney Olympics, you want to get down to The Riverside Studios in Hammersmith.

Here, sports.com are covering the World Chess Championship match between the champion and highest-rated player in history, Garry Kasparov, and 25-year-old challenger Vladimir Kramnik, until 4 November. The games are not being broadcast on TV, but over the internet, SMS, or WAP. Those not lucky enough to get their black-and-white pompoms down to the river in support have commented that WAP is, for once, an acceptable mode of finding out what is going on, as a chessboard is easily displayed over current technology. A colleague of mine got so swept away that he challenged sports.com's managing director Tom Jessiman to a charity match, with proceeds going to chess equipment for inner-city schools. Onlookers stared at their screens in disbelief as Jessiman was checkmated before he even sat down. You have to be really fit, boasted my colleague unconvincingly, to withstand the stress of this game.

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