The old boys are taking the new upstarts for a dotcom ride

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The Independent Online

It's taken as read that old media owners are making a mint out of the hundreds of new media companies eager to spend their hard-earned venture capital on above-the-line advertising, but what is not widely known is that, by and large, they're taking these so-called dotcoms for a ride.

It's taken as read that old media owners are making a mint out of the hundreds of new media companies eager to spend their hard-earned venture capital on above-the-line advertising, but what is not widely known is that, by and large, they're taking these so-called dotcoms for a ride.

At a time where immediate brand building is key for websites eager to become the next household name, a marketing budget of a few million pounds is not going to stretch as far as it used to do. What's happened is that old media owners are charging dotcom advertisers premium rates for ad space normally sold for almost fifty per cent less.

While many justify this as normal practice when dealing with potentially competitive businesses or quality targeting, the media buyers are having a tough time negotiating space for new dotcom clients compared with the more traditional clients. Media buyers are being given two different prices for the same ad space depending on the business model of the client.

So for new websites wanting to advertise on TV and in the national press, be prepared to pay much more than you bargained for. Is this the old media owners' way of thinning out the market; flushing out the flash in the pans from the big boys? Whatever the knock-on effect, it's going to be much more expensive to get a foothold in what is becoming a very overcrowded market.

Loadsa money

The jury's out on whether the latest high-profile site launch with a big bucks ad budget - FTYourMoney - is going to fall victim to the above-mentioned dotcom double-whammy. With £7.5m to spend on marketing and with a well-established brand name to play with, the FT's long-awaited consumer personal finance site has got a significant headstart on the competition.

While FTYourMoney may be entering a crowded marketplace, its consumer focus is bound to give it a competitive advantage over the lacklustre efforts from the likes of ThisisMoney, Times Money and UK-Invest.

Is there enough demand for a consumer personal finance site when the likes of Motley Fool and UK-Invest have already gained significant footholds in the consumer market? I think the answer is yes, because the FT has done its homework and realised that consumers wants to use the Net in a functional way, particularly when it comes to things like mortgages and savings accounts.

It looks like the FT's competitors are going to have to rethink their strategies.

She's always on

First there was Max Headroom, then came the more aesthetically pleasing Lara Croft; it was only a matter of time before someone exploited digitally produced icons even further and came up with the definitive cyberbabe with mass market appeal.

In case you missed her (which is unlikely as ex-Sun editor Stuart Higgins has been doing the PR) the newest, foxiest cyberbabe is Ananova, the first virtual newscaster (could there be more?) developed by PA New Media.

The Higgins-fuelled hype has been laughable. Ananova, a curious hybrid of Posh Spice, Kylie Minogue and Carol Vordeman, is going to give Trevor McDonald or Kirsty Young a run for their money. Oh really? While there's no doubting dear Ananova is going to be hard at work delivering news 24 hours a day (hope she's signed up with the NUJ), she's hardly going to put real newsreaders out of a job.

My guess is that Ananova will be a cult thing, a fad, a toy for the boys, something that, is cool for a while but then suddenly becomes extremely uncool. So what about one for the ladies? A Trevornova? Or how about a virtual newsreader that doubles as a computer game... Pax Man, perhaps? Surely it's just a matter of time.

amy@wagswell.co.uk

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