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RealTime IT News

Go.com Goes With Its Strength

With 21.3 million visitors in December, Go.com (GO) attracts more visitors to its Web sites than all but five Internet properties.

Unfortunately for Go.com, those five are America Online Inc. (AOL), Yahoo! Inc. (YHOO) , Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) , Lycos Inc. (LCOS) Lycos and Excite@Home (XCIT) - all of whom are competitors of Go.com in the expensive portal race.

But no more. Go.com has announced it is narrowing its strategic focus. No longer will it define itself as an all-purpose portal. Rather, it will re-position itself as a specialty portal that will emphasize entertainment, recreation and leisure.

It's a good move for Go.com. The company lost $1 billion last year, mostly due to Disney's purchase of Infoseek. It would be certain to lose millions more trying to narrow the traffic gap between itself and the portals immediately ahead of it (Lycos at 30.3 million visitors in December and Excite/AtHome at 27.7 million), never mind 'Net giants such as AOL (53.8 million) and Yahoo! (42.4 million), which it has no hopes of ever catching.

On the other hand, it's not likely the shift - expected to take place over the next few months - will hurt revenue, which reached $200 million in fiscal 1999, mostly through e-commerce and advertising. Unless, of course, traffic begins to decline. That's not likely to happen.

Further, Go.com can leverage the Disney brand name much more effectively as a specialty player, rather than trying to be all things to all people. Same goes for two of its top Web properties, ESPN.com and ABCNews.com.

What Go.com and Disney are doing is acknowledging that the portal landscape of the future will feature only one or two successful general-purpose portals, and a number of successful portals targeting mass-audience niches - sports, entertainment, news, personal finance, etc.

After a year of transition that saw Disney's Web efforts founder, it appears the company is developing a solid strategy that plays to its strengths and built-in customer base. Shareholders should be pleased.