Issue #32
29 October 1996
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A weekly E-zine about the NZ internet industry
Aardvark

Edition #32

GOODBYE 0800, HELLO DIGITAL TOLL-FREE ACCESS?
Last week the Voyager versus Telecom issue hotted up again with Voyager announcing that it would be dropping 0800 access and then doing an about-face on Friday.

What's going on? What's going to happen?

Well the 0800 service was never designed to handle the type of calls that are normally associated with computer and modem use. The pricing and design of the 0800 system is suited to lots of short-duration calls, typically of the type that you'd expect to be associated with a sales or support service. It's understandable that internet users who sit on the line for hours at a time might not be the best type of users to have tying up such a resource.

In light of this it appears that Telecom are about to release a digital toll-free system somewhat similar to the old PacNet system that everyone has loved to hate over the years. If this is the case then the 0800 row might disappear into the ether and rural internet users may find their choice of ISPs growing as this more affordable service is made available to any ISP who wants it.

Hard facts are thin on the ground at present but Clive Litt of Telecom did confirm on Friday that the new alternative was not based on existing 0800 services. I'll keep you informed as more facts come to hand.

BUY, SELL AND EXCHANGE
Where do newspapers make a huge amount of their money from?

Subscriptions? - nah... that often just covers distribution costs
Display advertising ... yep.. that's important
Classified advertising? NOW you're talking!

Just take a look at the Saturday issue of most daily newspapers and see how much classified advertising there is. It doesn't take a Nobel-prize winning mathematician to work out that at the prices they charge for these ads - classifieds are a licence to print money!

With most of the daily-pulp-prints starting to look seriously at the Net as a "necessary and inevitable step", you can expect them to meld their print and internet activities to strengthen their classified advertising offering - but until then, what is there in the way of classified advertising on the web in NZ?

Metro Online Classifieds are lucky enough to have the URL www.classifieds.co.nz which has to be a good start.

The site is pleasantly simple (although some might call it boring) in its layout and styling. You get to see exactly how many ads are online - there were 602 last night when I looked - but don't get too excited, it appears that a great percentage of these ads are placed by oportunist posters from overseas just looking for some cheap exposure for their commercial products. Out of 14 ads under the heading of "Computer Hardware" 8 were commercial postings from US companies. Even when I looked under "Motoring-cars" I found that three of the six ads were from the USA.

Content aside, the Metro Online Classifieds are feature-rich and quite well designed. The "Notify" option is quite a good idea whereby the system will email you if an advert matching your specific requirements is received. This option however does cost - and I think that $30 per month is a bit steep!
Functionality: 8/10
Content: 4/10 (too polluted with US commercial junk)

Stimulus Classifieds have been in action for a long time and obviously attract a good volume of users. Coincidentally, Stimulus (like Metro) had 14 entries under "Computer Hardware" - the difference being that just one was from the USA, all the rest being NZ advertisers. Under Vehicles there were some 18 adverts - all from NZ.

The interface at Stimulus is very simple but effective. They've obviously taken care to ensure that users of older browsers aren't disadvantaged and everything is clean and easy. It is worth noting however that the data-vetting is obviously a bit lax with several ads lacking any kind of contact details - effectively rendering them useless :-)
Functionality: 6/10
Content: 7/10

IExchange is the new-boy on the block and is far more visually oriented than the other sites reviewed. Under Computer Hardware their were 11 adverts, all from NZ. It would have been nice to see exactly when those adverts had been posted and I found the font-size of the contact details to be a little small for these aging eyes to read easily. There were 4 ads under "Cars For Sale", again, all from NZ.

With up to seven frames active on the screen at any given time I'm afraid that I found this site to be a little "over the top" with respect to its user-interface. Looking at the two sites above by way of comparison shows that it is possible to provide excellent levels of functionality without being overly complex or cumbersome. When I resized my browser window to the equivalent of 640x480, the results meant that there was almost no room left for the adverts since the other frames had consumed almost all of the available screen-space.
Functionality: 5/10 (points lost for having too many frames!) Content: 6/10

AdNet has been featured before in Aardvark and nothing has changed since the time I highlighted it as being little more than a "mock-up". Although billed as a classifieds service on the Homepage of NZ page from which it is linked, I could not find a single non-commercial advert on the site and there is no facility for internet users to add their own advertisements.
Functionality: 1 (you can't add or browse by category)
Content: 0 (don't even bother with this site)

Alpha classifieds is a very simple site, little more than a user-updatable list of entries without any type of search facility or category structure. It seems to be full of commercial-type postings with no real classified content. It's free though so you can't complain too much.
Functionality: 2/10
Content: 1

FaxMail are providing a link through to the Trade & Exchange classifieds newspaper. Although FaxMail's own classified advertising service is presently off-line and undergoing some improvements, the link through to T&E remains. Why have I included this? Well on the web an advert is going to reach (at best) just a few thousand readers. The Trade & Exchange magazine claims a readership of up to 180,000. Obviously if you're serious about having your advert seen by the maximum number of people, this is an option that shouldn't be overlooked.
Functionality: 7/10 (no online listings but unique and inovative)
Content: 0 (no online content at present).

The Weekly O'Press Classifieds is not what you think. I'll pass no comments except to say - just take a look for yourselves :-)

WHERE HAS STATTRAX GONE? (follow-up)
Where's it gone? Well apparently their hard disk drive crashed and they've been pitching tales of woe about how their local dealer screwed up and they've been waiting weeks for the replacement.

Sounds pretty suspicious to me - hard drives are literally a dime a dozen these days and if one dealer can't supply you just cancel the order and buy elsewhere don't you? The word is that many of StatTrax's customers have already found alternative services and won't be renewing their subscription - I can't blame them.

GOOD NEWS!
It seems that Cyber Promotions Inc, the evil baby-killing email spam merchants that AOL sought to block a month or so ago is on the verge of bankrupcy. It's been "disconnected" from the net by Sprint and faces several expensive court battles. Compuserve is suing them for overloading their computers by using a forged Compuserve return address on their emailings. This meant that Compuserve users faced unreasonable delays in the processing of their own email due to the number of bounces and complaint emails that were hitting the Compuserve site. However, the most interesting of these litigations is a suit by Prodigy which claims that Cyber Promotions infringed their trademarks when it again forged a return address - this time at prodigy.com. If this suit succeeds it might make other spammers think twice about using fake addresses on their email.

Cyber Promotions are quoted as saying "We provide a service that's 100 percent legal and the online services are trying to help their own interests because they're engaged in unsolicited advertising and see us as competition - they're ganging up on us". Excuse me while I wipe away the tears... NOT!

IS THE WRITING ON THE WALL?
All over the world ISPs are losing money hand over fist. Here in NZ we have a price war that has seen modest profits turn to unacceptable losses for many players. Why??

This story in PC Week only serves to highlight the problems and it's interesting to see that already some NZ ISPs have shown their business savvy by attacking the very markets which are the Archiles heals of the bigger players.

Excellent examples of this are Actrix Networks' growing emphasis of its web-hosting prowess and IProlink's push into the provision of high-quality, high-security services for the professional and business markets. This is the type of smart thinking that other ISPs will have to do if they intend to stay in business when faced with the likes of Xtra and Clear. My congratulations to two innovative Kiwi ISPs who aren't just sitting around moaning but who are actually implementing the GOYA principle to the benefit of their customers and their own bottom-lines.

Let's face it - regardless of the rulings of the Commerce Commission, the ISP marketplace in NZ will never be the same again - the margins have all but gone. ISPs are going to have to diversify and/or specialise. There's just no way that the small guys can go head to head with an organisation which is prepared to lose millions of dollars a year just to gain market dominance so there's little point trying. Look for the areas where the Telcos can't hope to compete and build your strengths in those places. Such weaknesses are manifold and there's plenty of room for ISPs to find their niches.

RIGHT OF REPLY
Anyone mentioned by Aardvark who feels that they have been misrepresented or who wish a "right of reply" are invited to send email to me at ror@aardvark.co.nz and the contents of that email will be printed verbatim for all to read.

RIGHT OF REPLY
Nothing this week

FROM THE "I CAN'T BELIEVE IT'S TRUE" DEPARTMENT:

Oh Gibbo - bolt the doors and pull the curtains, here come the authorities! I take a little pitty on this guy since he's got a link to my home-page on his site - maybe he doesn't know that pyramid schemes are illegal and that this page really says "come and get me copper!".

You can earn $50,000 in 90 days!

There's a difference between MLM and pyramid - this ain't MLM!

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The entire contents of this publication are copyright 1996 to Bruce Simpson, all rights reserved. Don't copy it without my permission - just ask, I'm unlikely to refuse any reasonable request.


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