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Local players dominate French top websites

France has more successful homespun portals in the top five than its European counterparts.
Written by Suzanna Kerridge, Contributor

France has more successful homespun portals in the top five than its European counterparts.

While US portals such as Yahoo! and MSN dominate German and British markets, French portals Wanadoo, Libertysurf and Free top the bill in France, according to Fabienne Schwalbe, director general at research house MMXI Europe. Schwalbe said: "When looking at the top five portals in these countries it is clear that local players do best in the French market. Germany only has one top player in T-Online and the same for the UK with Freeserve." She claimed specific cultural needs of French users are better served by French portals than by US sites trying to localise content. Hellen Omwando, analyst at Forrester Research, agreed. She said: "Homespun portals have a greater understanding of the local market. Most of them started life as an ISP, so once they get traffic through internet connections they realised they could leverage on that by cross-promoting content to become strong local players." However, she claimed the success of French portals also lay in France's strong cultural beliefs. "There is a French culture of embracing the local and not going for US sites - they see it as imperalistic," she said. "The French are trying to retain their own image and culture so French users have French homepages as default," she said. The same cannot be said of the UK, she claimed, which acts as the entry point to Europe for most US companies. "US companies had first-mover advantage as the UK is the entry point to Europe for them. They also know how to lock in customers and that content does not drive traffic. Applications, such as chat rooms and email, are arguably more important and are seen as a great mechanism to drive traffic." Adrian Drozd, analyst at Datamonitor, disagreed, claiming deep pockets were more important for success. He said: "The fact that the Americans got there first is not really relevant. The advantage that AOL and its competitors have is that they have huge financial backing which translates to extra marketing power."
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