Go.com unveils new look to accompany new Internet strategy


Friday, September 15th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6


By GARY GENTILE

AP Business Writer


LOS ANGELES (AP) - Nine months after The Walt Disney Company abandoned its plan to make Go.com a rival to America Online and Yahoo, the company has unveiled its redesigned Web site and strategy.


Instead of being a general purpose Web "portal," offering a search engine and links to news, weather and other information, the new Go.com will focus on leisure and entertainment and will more prominently feature Disney's other sites, including the top-rated ESPN.com, ABC.com and Disney.com.


The new site is being introduced as "your guide to a better time," as one advertising slogan puts it.


But Go.com, launched in January 1999 after Disney bought the search engine Infoseek, will not abandon its roots. The site will continue to serve as a general search engine, even while emphasizing its new role as a destination for people looking for leisure time information.


"For any query, we're as good as anyone out there," said Steve Wadsworth, president of The Walt Disney Internet Group. "But our goal is that for free-time queries, we will be the best."


The new site scheduled a "soft" launch starting Friday and will replace the existing site sometime in October.


Visitors to the new Go.com will first see a major cosmetic change. Content that was buried on the old site, or lost in the long lists of choices on the home page, will be categorized and featured in a cleaner, more colorful format. The search box is larger and more prominent.


The search results page will be significantly different. Instead of highlighting random results from the Web, which can number in the tens of thousands, the new page will give priority to sites that have been rated by a peer panel, known as "Go Guides." That service is already available, but hard to locate.


"We've found that people like proven picks better than search engine results," Wadsworth said.


The left-hand side of the page will feature general Web results displayed under the "proven picks." The right-hand side will display content and features from Disney's other sites and from its partners.


One big change on the new home page will be a new advertising device called a "Big Impression." The large rectangular ad will appear on the top right of the page and will be 30 percent larger than the more traditional banner ads that appear elsewhere.


The new ads debuted recently on ESPN.com and have proven popular with advertisers, Wadsworth said.


Advertisers will be able to buy the news ads by the day or month or can buy a permanent placement. Wadsworth said he expects the new ad format will double revenue per page view.


Disney's shift from competing head-to-head with AOL and Yahoo was praised by analysts when it was announced in January. Go.com is always among the top 10 most visited Web sites as measured by Media Metrix, but trails far behind AOL and Yahoo.


In distinct categories, however, such as sports, news, entertainment and entertainment for kids, Disney sites typically rank at or near the top.


Go.com changed its name in August to The Walt Disney Internet Group in part to better coordinate marketing and technology efforts among its various Web sites. Wadsworth said the new strategy will make the company more efficient and more profitable.


"We will build things once and deploy them everywhere," he said. "We won't build things six times."


Disney's internet operations have yet to show a profit. In the latest fiscal quarter, the company lost $52.6 million, or 34 cents per share. Wadsworth said the company is not likely to become profitable in the next year.


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AP-WS-09-15-00 0128EDT