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Home >Press > PCMag

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PC Magazine and ZDNet

PCMagazineFind Your Vertical Portal

By Don Willmott
September 1, 1999

Who are you, really? Are you very young? Very old? A multimillionaire? A New Yorker? A San Franciscan? A gardener? A passionate soccer fan? A mining engineer? A full-time homemaker? A day trader?

What do you care about? What do you need to know about? What do you want to find out first when you wake up in the morning? Do you flip on the Today show? CNBC? ESPN? Regis and Kathie Lee?

And why am I asking all these questions? Because, heaven help us, the paradigms are shifting again. Now it turns out that the Web portals with which we're all familiar (Yahoo!, Excite, and the like) may be too general-purpose to hold your interest and too broad (or horizontal) to attract targeted advertising money.

What's the solution? Vertical portals: Web sites that cater to very specific types of people who then attract specific types of advertisers who lust after the chance to reach a targeted audience. Chances are that in the near future, there will be a portal for you no matter what your special interest is.

Of course, there's a middle ground, too. A site like ZDNet, where this column lives, is what I'd call a horizontal-vertical portal. It obviously caters to a special interest group--technology fans--but it does so in a broad enough way to attract millions of visitors a month. If you really care about the high-tech news, reviews, and downloads that ZDNet offers, it can make an excellent starting page, especially because you can also get stock quotes and other mainstream Web services.

Another example: MyPrimeTime.com, a site that doesn't even exist yet. This effort, the brainchild of former CNNfn executives, is designed to be the place where baby boomers start their day. Billed as a "personal trainer for your life," the site's mission statement says that its target audience is "Baby boomers -- not just because there are nearly 80 million of us with trillions of dollars and no real home on the Web --but because at mid-life it's natural to reassess who we are and where we're going. Because we're living longer, healthier lives, baby boomers need tools and information to make decisions in order to create the worlds we've dreamed of. That is our mission." Yeah, maybe. But I bet those trillions of dollars are the real impetus. So why not a site that addresses the issues that most concern baby boomers? Heck, as long as it provides stock quotes and news headlines, it'll certainly qualify as a vertical portal. As a borderline boomer myself, I'm curious to see if this site will capture my attention. When I wake up in the morning, do I ponder my personal baby-boomer issues from the get-go? Not really, but maybe I'll start.

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