NBCi Dives Deeper into E-Commerce

In an apparent effort to keep pace with other portals that offer e-commerce storefronts to small businesses, NBC Internet (Nasdaq: NBCI) said Tuesday it will partner with Bigstep.com to assist companies in building Web sites, developing catalogs and accepting credit cards.

The move, designed to help small businesses “get into the e-business fast lane” on NBCi’s sprawling portal, is the latest foray into e-commerce for the interactive division of the NBC network, itself a subsidiary of industrial giant General Electric. NBCi has had highly publicized struggles as a content-driven Internet firm and has said it will shift resources this year in a bid to gain stronger financial footing.

Losses Mounting

Earlier this year, the company announced that it was losing $40 million (US$) per month and that it would not turn a profit until 2002. More recently, the company warned that it would post a larger second-quarter loss due in part to lower advertising revenues.

In June, NBCi said it would restructure and consolidate all of its Web holdings, eliminating the Snap.com and Xoom.com brand names that it had acquired while the TV network expanded into interactive media.

Under the agreement announced Tuesday, NBCi will take a minority stake in Bigstep. In exchange, Bigstep will buy prominent space on all of NBCi’s properties, including Allbusiness.com.

Storefronts for Small Biz

Bigstep will plug its services into NBCi’s existing StoreBuilder Solutions area, which offers full-service electronic stores, Web hosting and file storage. In addition, Bigstep will be featured on NBCi’s 31,000 Interactive Neighborhoods, which targets local merchants for advertising in conjunction with NBC TV’s local network affiliates.

Still, NBCi is getting a late start in targeting small merchants. Yahoo!’s shopping area already features well over 6,000 businesses of all sizes, and Amazon.com has had moderate success with its zShops hosting service.

Additionally, just last week, Excite@Home said more than a thousand merchants signed up for its free online storefront service, “Freetailer,” during its first day on the market.

Small Business Going Online Slowly

All of the companies are aiming at what appears to be a gap in the online world: small business. A recent survey from National Small Business United and consulting firm Arthur Andersen found that while 71 percent of small companies have or are planning Web sites, more than half currently have no e-commerce presence.

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