Roger Green is the first person to admit that most material on the Internet is rubbish.
“Internet ga-ga,” the joint managing director of EMAP Online calls it. And far too many of Britain’s advertisers, ad agencies and Web designers are responsible for it.
“I’d have to say that the bulk of Joe Public’s home pages are generally no worse that most packaged goods manufacturers’ home pages,” he says. “Nobody’s ever been fired for not having a Website, so I don’t understand the rush to put up sites which don’t do anything.”
Despite these withering remarks, Green is one half of a “double act” at EMAP Online responsible for ensuring EMAP becomes a “major player” in the Internet industry, attracting advertising, sponsorship, and transactional revenues.
Green leads the company’s content design team. Fellow joint md Carol Dukes leads its ad sales division which represents about 65 independent and EMAP-owned Web- sites, including Lycos UK, Virgin Net, Chelsea FC and FHM.
EMAP has a fast-growing stable of Websites based on leading consumer magazine and business titles, some of which have decided “at arm’s length” to be represented by EMAP Online. But the company has been deliberately briefed to develop online services and editorial which are not based on existing EMAP brands. The latest of these is Scrum.com (www.scrum.com) which launched on October 6 fully sponsored by Save & Prosper.
Sponsored content, freely available to Net users, is just one business model that EMAP Online is experimenting with. The company’s What’s On Stage site, launched a year ago, enables consumers to book theatre tickets online through London-based ticket agency Fenchurch Street. The site generates ticket commissions for EMAP, but it also offers theatre-related merchandising, including music and books, as well as advertising and sponsorship opportunities, and a premium rate fax-back service.
EMAP Online has also inherited a number of Net-related sites from EMAP Computing, such as What’s New on the Internet and Internet Directory UK.
Despite a strong initial presence in the “navigational tool” market, EMAP opted not to compete against the major players in developing a mainstream search engine brand. Instead it has opted to maintain its “niche” products, and license this content to a range of third parties including MSN and CompuServe.
In July, it also launched its Bargainholidays.com site with Holiday Express, aimed at offering package holidays and other deals specifically to a UK market.
The site achieved online bookings worth over 100,000 in its first six weeks, says Green. “At that rate, its revenues for the first year will match those of many monthly magazines in their first year.”
Disarmingly, Green, despite 22 years of journalistic and publishing experience across the computing, online and broadcasting sectors, believes himself to be eminently unqualified to lay down the law to a full-time staff of 16, and a further 12 regular freelances.
“I’m more than twice the age of some of the people working for us. In many ways my job is to shut up and listen to them,” says Green. “Older people know nothing. My job is to create a good environment for other talented people.”