It's door-to-door ISP selling!

Book seller plans to make Net a safe Avon for customers

The fight to grab Internet eyeballs moves on to the street Thursday as reference book seller Dorling Kindersley employs 'Avon lady' tactics to beat off Freeserve with its new DKnet Internet service.

Dorling Kindersley will employ 10,000 'DK advisors' to visit homes, offices and schools throughout the UK in a move reminiscent of the lipstick selling sales force of the 1970s.

No doubt inspired by the success of Dixons' Freeserve which distributes CDs via its high street retail outlets, many believe DK's novel approach could be a winning tactic in a saturated market. Ajay Chowdhury, managing director of free ISP LineOne which is providing the content for DKnet, believes the personal touch is key. "Distribution is certainly one of the major issues but for people still nervous about going online, DK advisors will be able to demonstrate the benefits directly to people inside their homes. This is a powerful mechanism, not tried in the UK before," he says.

Nicholas Lansman, secretary general of ISPA was also supportive, reminds DKnet that while distribution is important "service levels and quality are more important to the customer".

Dorling Kindersley hopes its Web site, aimed at families already targeted by DK advisors, will encourage online book buying as well as bringing a new set of customers online. "The indications are that successful sites are those with a strong community of interest backed by well-known, trusted brands," said Clive Bruce, finance director at Dorling Kindersley.

AOL distributed its free ISP Netscape Online service via Woolworths stores and new charity ISP Care4free will target people through charity newsletters.