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Internet Slow Down: Who Benefits?

[SOUTH AFRICA] With the dot.bomb news dominating the digital waves over the past six months, one would think the industry is dead and buried. But has anyone actually stopped and analyzed the shake out to determine who will benefit from this correction?

Journalists continue to report on the doom and gloom. Just take a look at the hammering Internet advertising is taking. You would never say that the industry has experienced 95% growth this year. Not bad when other media are experiencing an average growth rate of below 6% per annum.

But the question remains, who will benefit?

Look at it this way, for every dot.bomb that takes place another Internet property benefits from the reduced competition and increase in traffic. Although South Africa cannot expect the same due to a more conservative approach to Internet developments- what is happening is a slowdown of new Internet ventures and a growth in local content and service provision. "Keep 'em local," I say.

This undoubtedly will benefit the current and more established players, allowing them to consolidate their position in the marketplace and entrench themselves with current customer bases. Furthermore the "first to market approach" has given way to a more manageable growth strategy for Internet properties. Making money is now as important as spending it.

2001 will bring with it a new breed of Internet properties and companies offering Internet solutions, e-enablement and connection to the wired world; however, more will be expected from digital players and service providers. Being wired is just not enough.

Expect to see more on- and offline services centered around business enhancement, business intelligence and facilities or services that go beyond simply trying to bring buyer and seller together in a common marketplace. Specialized services that can show their value in growing a business will be in demand.

Locally, e-mail communication should come to light as the driving force of customer retention and cost effective promotion. Companies that can enhance the relationship building process will be well positioned to take advantage of the Internet realization era.

Internet advertising can expect to undergo changes as players look to enhance the advertising value of their models and rich media starts to play a role in the local industry. Offering banner impressions alone will not be enough and pay-per-action and ROI will drive players to re-evaluate there advertising offerings.

M-Web's approach -although not profitable to date- puts them in a strong position to dominate in the future. They certainly have the eyeballs, financial backing and ability to attract the right partners and clients. Johnnic's push has also been bold and with key acquisitions and partnerships one expects them to continue their drive in 2001.

The B2B markets are still very much wide open, with players still struggling to come to terms with the right model. This is a marketplace where, perhaps, there will not be one or two dominant players but a broad cross-section of online services each offering their own unique or specialized B2B facility. Internet specialist will look to drive outsourcing as a viable and cost effective alternative, however being able to deliver on expectations will be critical for survival.

The wireless market should be high profile news in 2001. But players should be careful n