"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 3 April 1996. Updated every WEEKDAY.

Couch Potatoes


[International Male]

We sure hope they didn't throw

too gala of a bash to celebrate

the new International Male Web

catalog. Even a modest Taco Bell

catering job would've run up a

tab greater than the revenues

they've reported for their first

3 weeks of service. It's

easy to imagine some

once-chipper Web contractor,

burrowed away in his San Diego

flat and grimacing at a

furiously packed hooka, his only

shield against the phone that

won't stop ringing. But if 3

orders in so many weeks mutes

his 60-day billables, he should

take solace in the fact that

the failure of the Web to prompt

a consumer cavalcade isn't

entirely his fault.



The gist of contemporary Web

marketing holds the medium as

the Ritz cracker upon which a

creamy Velveeta mixture of

broadcasting, narrowcasting, and

nanocasting may be spread, but

while the dreamers are thinking

ubermarket, hard-nosed

pragmatists are tentatively

betting their chips on



[Net Sauce]

It's not so much jockeying for

position on the value chain as

divining the significance of the

food chain that leads to

announcements such as this

week's of TCI and Procter &

Gamble joining forces to create

the grocery standard for the

Internet. Badbreath.com and

diarrhea.com indicate that

those whose job it is to predict

such things predict those old

standbys of high school debate

team leaders, apples and

oranges, should both be

available in the same digital

aisle. And romantic notions of

meeting one's true love while

fumbling for a Le Menu in frozen

foods notwithstanding, is there

any shopping experience more

conspicuously disposable than

that of supermarket shopping?


[You Order...]

Peapod, the AOL of online

groceries, saw opportunities

years ago, and has been offering

its services to recalcitrant

cart-pushers in San Francisco

and Chicago. Their

implementation is unassailable

if not quite monumental - sort

through food types and grouping

by fat content, price, brand,

whether it's kosher, whatever; create

personal templates; have your

groceries delivered. Stocking

one's pantry with

industrial-size Lunchables-paks

has never been easier.



Where Peapod goes peabrained,

though, is in its clusterfuck

approach toward revenues. Part

of the orgasmic allure of this

sort of service is the massive

opportunity for sponsorship. If

Netscape can get five search

engines to hemorrhage $5 mil

apiece for placement on its Net

Search page, how much do you

think Peapod or TCI will be able

to extort from Coke or Pepsi to

spring a twirling icon on its

soda order form? That Procter &

Gamble are holding hands with

TCI on this project is little

surprise - General Mills,

Coca-Cola, and Tropicana are all

partners in the similar

Supermarket Shopping Network.



But what's in it for us? Besides

creating an ideal online petri

dish for speculative experiments

in direct marketing, moving your

customer base from vague

walk-ins to dependable,

acclimated regulars is a major

bonus for the supermarkets and

the brands - store owners turn

stocking shelves into a science

and brand marketers get to throw

away their blindfolds. It's

outrageous, then - but sadly

predictable - that the

conglomerates behind these

efforts work on the assumption

that consumers will actually pay

more for the privilege of

maximizing their profits.



It may only be groceries, but at

the very least shoppers should

expect a banal win-win out of it -

in return for low overhead and

golden stats, not a surcharge,

but cheaper services. Before

1991, commercial use of the

Internet was verboten.

Technically, those days are

over. But for those who're

hoping to have their Sara Lee

cake and eat it, too - we'd

offer a concise admonishment:

3 orders in 3 weeks.

courtesy of the Duke of URL