Some 84% of online households in the US rely on AOL, MSN, or Yahoo! for critical internet services, according to IDC. The firm's latest report, '2002 Internet and Portal Usage Survey: The Portal's Role in the US Internet Household', also looks at factors that determine how the 'big three' are splitting their audience.
The focus of internet portals is shifting from just 'delivering eyeballs' to capturing a person's digital identity, and their success can be measured by their ability to capture a person's digital identity, and to deliver enhanced services to consumers and business partners in the telecommunications, finance, and entertainment arenas.
The depth of the portals' penetration into the day-to-day lives of US online households will open up new avenues for businesses that want to deliver enhanced services to them while reducing customer acquisition and administration costs.
"Success for AOL, MSN, and Yahoo! depends upon more than the delivery of more page views and the registration of more users," explained Richard Villars, vice president of internet strategies for IDC. "They must create deeper relationships with their subscribers, touch more aspects of their lives, and be more indispensable than any other medium."
The battle for broadband
One of the next big battles in the portal war involves migrating the existing customer base to broadband internet access (replacing slower dial-up connections). This will change the portals' primary distribution relationships, and they will need to develop marketing and information sharing systems that integrate more closely with the broadband companies' sales, marketing, billing, and customer care systems.
The two most important alliances in this space are SBC/Yahoo! and MSN/Verizon. These partnerships were developed by the portals as a way to enhance their distribution channels, and subscribers to these services can look forward to a special co-branded broadband version of the portal that carries a number of specially enhanced features.
IDC's new report brings together a number of the firm's surveys and studies on consumer use of portals, and is one of a series that assesses the competitive positions of the big three portals (MSN, AOL, and Yahoo!)