Now the whole family can surf the Internet

Marketing: 35 companies sign up to a service tailored to UK homes

AWAY FROM the blaze of publicity that marked Bill Gates's move into the world of on-line information services last month, a UK contender has been quietly laying the foundations for the first British on-line service.

UK Online, launched last week, and backed by Olivetti Telemedia, is a tailored service comprising UK-originated news, information, and entertainment including lifestyle sections, games and education.

"Unlike other service providers, such as CompuServe, we really are going after the home market - the mass market," says Jennifer Perry, the sales and marketing director of UK Online. Unlike Microsoft Network, the service is aiming at families, and every on-line subscriber will be based in Britain.

UK household expenditure on personal computers continues to rise: pounds 1.6bn was spent on home PCs alone last year, and there are now 3.9 million of them in UK homes.

However, until now the Internet has been seen only as a hobby for computer buffs, Ms Perry believes. "We are clearly positioning ourselves as a mass market consumer product."

British content is key. Research shows 64 per cent of UK families would prefer British to US content."Creating a sense of community is essential," she says, to avoid subscribers logging off after the first subscription.

Through a deal struck with Energis, the telecommunications arm of the national grid company, UK Online is available to 40 million people for the cost of a local phone. A user with a PC and modem can subscribe direct through UK Online, using software designed for the first-time user. All aspects of the service are covered in a flat fee.

Family membership costs from pounds 9.99 to pounds 14.99 per month, which includes full Internet access. The price includes four individual E-mail addresses. Each user has his or her own identification code, and parents can restrict the amount of time spent by children accessing the Internet.

Research shows 70 per cent of adults worry that children might access adult material on the World Wide Web. UK Online offers parents the ability to restrict the range.

UK Online has struck 35 partnerships with companies and organisations to provide information and entertainment on-line. These include deals with Dillons, Sony, Great Universal Stores, United Newspapers, Dennis Publishing, and Compton's Interactive Encyclopedia. None is being charged to take part.

Other on-line services have allowed commercial applications to dictate editorial content, Ms Perry claims. "We just don't see true commercial transactions yet being feasible. Charging information providers will come 12 to 18 months down the line. For the time being our focus is building the medium." It is a question of building confidence, she says.

UK Online is now distributing its access software free as part of its launch subscriptions drive. It aims to move to the mass market within six months, and attract 20,000 subscribers by Christmas and 100,000 in a year. Ms Perry says: "We want quality, relevant content and to work with partners to gain access to their databases and establish business models for future marketing initiatives."

Compton's NewMedia, a US company that produces Compton's Interactive Encyclopedia, has struck a deal with UK Online. It produces an interactive encylopaedia on CD-Rom and will use UK Online to update its customers. The 1996 edition will allow users to go on-line to access continually updated data.

Compton has a similar partnership with America Online in the US. "UK Online's family positioning completely matches our own," says Ciaran Brennan of Compton.

This model has significant future potential for any business needing to convey large volumes of visual information or time-sensitive data, says Ms Perry. "Should travel companies bring out brochures on CD-Rom, a link to an on-line service such as ours enables users to get up-to-date flight details, prices and last-minute bargains."

Dillons was also eager to experiment on-line, although is yet to sell books in this way. Instead, it is offering UK Online a regular feature with top-selling titles and reviews. Meanwhile, Sony and Olivetti are creating on-line competitions to gather subscribers' details for database marketing. And Great Universal Stores is to launch a home shopping service this year.

GUS Home Shopping has sold products on-line for the past 15 years - initially through BT's Prestel service, more recently with CompuServe and MSN.

"UK on-line services to date have been Anglicised versions of those from the US," says John Andrews, the research controller of GUS Home Shopping.

"UK Online is obviously appealing because of its British content. However, future development will depend on how other services develop their own content."

Microsoft Network is now available in 52 countries with access software in 26 languages. But it emphasises the international reach of its British contingent of software providers - including Barclays Bank, Tesco and Thomas Cook - is a key part of MSN's proposition.

UK Online will not have the field to itself much longer. America Online has confirmed plans to launch in Europe next year and with local services also planned by Europe Online, backed by AT&T and BT, competition will become tough.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Content Writer - Global Financial Services

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: From modest beginnings the comp...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - PHP

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: From modest beginnings the comp...

Recruitment Genius: Field Sales Consultant - Financial Services - OTE £65,000

£15000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Loan Underwriter

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future