commercial online services
Companies that offer online information, entertainment, shopping and other marketing services to subscribers •M-/W pay the company a monthly fee. They make use of their own dedicated networks and operate their own computers whiah ore connected to the Internet, thus offering somevohat better security than the Internet.
The most recent and fastest-growing form of direct marketing involves online channels and electronic commerce. We discuss these channels in detail in the next section.
(inline marketing is conducted through interactive online computer systems, which link consumers with sellers electronically. A modem connects the consumers computer or TV set-top 'Web machine' with various services through telephone lines. There are two types of online marketing channel: commercial online services and the Internet
Commercial online services offer online information and marketing services to Subscribers who pay a monthly fee. The best-known online services are America Online, CompuServe and Prodigy, with more than 8,000,000, 2,500,000 aad 1,000,000 subscribers respectively,39 These online services provide subscribers with information (news, libraries, education, travel, sports, reference), entertainment (fun and games), shopping services, dialogue opportunities (bulletin boards, forums, chat boxes) and e-mail. With a few clicks of the mouse button at their home PCs, subscribers can order thousands of products and services electronically from dozens of major stores and catalogues. They can also do their banking with local banks: buy and sell investments through discount brokerage services; book airline, hotel and car-rental reservations; play games, quizzes and contests; check Consumer Reports ratings of various products; receive the latest sports scores and statistics; obtain weather forecasts; and exchange e-mail messages with other subscribers around the country.
After growing rapidly through the mid-1990s, the commercial online services are now being overtaken by the Internet as the primary online marketing channel. In fact, all of the online service firms now offer Internet access as a primary service. The Internet is a vast and burgeoning global web of computer networks. It was created by the US Defense Department during the 1960s, initially to link government labs, contractors and military installations. Today, this huge, public computer network links computer users of all types all around the world. Anyone with a PC, a modem and the right software can browse the Internet to obtain or share information on almost any subject and to interact with other users,20
Internet usage has surged with the recent development of the user-friendly World Wide Well access standard and Web browser software sueh as Netscape Navigator, Microsoft Internet Explorer and Mosaic. Now, even novices can surf the Net with fully integrated text, graphics, images and sound. Users can send e-mail, exchange views, shop for produces, and access news, food recipes, art and business information. The Internet itself is free, although individual users must usually pay a commercial access provider to be hooked up to it.
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