CNet Inc.'s Snap! Online guide has lined up another Internet service provider to present its Web guide to users, as part of a deal with Sprint Corp.
Sprint Internet Passport will now use a customized version of Snap! as the default home page for its Internet service. In return, Sprint will get a portion of advertising and transaction revenues generated by the site.
"What we get from them is a more dynamic Web site," said Terry Parker, director of product management at Sprint. Parker said Sprint users would gain better content that receives more updates than Sprint would give it. "[Snap!'s] core competency is editorializing content and creating content," said Parker.
Sprint Internet Passport currently has about 130,000 users, according to Parker.
The deal is important for the Snap! service, which CNet launched earlier this year. The service is designed to compete with America Online Inc. and companies like Yahoo! Inc., which offer Web users a guide to the Internet.
CNet has signed deals with several ISP partners to distribute "how-to" guides to the Internet on CD-ROM, which help users link up through the ISP that distributes the disk. Sprint is not currently distributing the disk, but is linking to Snap!s online guide through its Web site.
ISPs hope Snap!, and competitors such as Planet Direct or Bigfoot.com's NeoPlanet, will helps them gain customers who turn to AOL because of its ease-of-use claims. For CNet, deals with ISPs mean it might snag users' eyeballs before they get diverted to sites like Yahoo!, which is consistently ranked as the most visited site on the Web.
For customers, the equation's a different one.
"If you have most ISP home pages, yes, you want to run screaming [to a new default]. If it's Snap!, there might not be reason to want to change," said Bill Bass an analyst at Forrester Research Inc. in Cambridge, Mass.
More eyeballs will bring in more advertising dollars for CNet, which has not yet managed to post a profit. In October, CNet reported a $6.2 million loss, blamed in part for overspending on Snap!.
"It's not a whole lot of people, but every bit helps, and having one of the Big Three long distance companies helps," Bass said. Still, Bass said Snap! faces significant distribution challenges "It takes a lot of deals like this to compete with AOL's 10 million people," he said.