BUILDING ‘STREET CRED’ ON THE WEB

Byline: Melanie Kletter

Much of the buzz at VibeStyle emanated from the Internet.
A highlight of the show was a panel discussion about the information highway entitled, “The Next Wave — Cyberbeats, Cyberstyle, Cyberjam,” hosted by Yahoo Internet Life magazine.
The panel explored the successful strategies of several youth and urban-oriented Web sites.
The participants included executives from hip-hop and teen sites, such as Aka.com, Hookt.com, Platform.net, Vibe.com and Doughnet.com.
“We have found success by creating a destination site that includes content, culture, community and commerce,” said Charles Walker, a founder of Hookt.com, a hip-hop Web site. “We have been trying to find the best ways to blend these elements. You have to be in a position to convert traffic to dollars, if you want to survive.”
Panel members discussed the importance of using both online and off-line marketing strategies.
Tina Imm, a founder of Platform.net, another hip-hop Web site, said her firm uses a variety of methods to obtain brand recognition, ranging from handing out flyers at clubs to creating online partnerships with a variety of companies linked in some way to the market.
Stephen Kahn, president and chief executive officer of Iturf.com, a network of sites targeting the teen market, said it was not possible to “buy” traffic.
“The reality is, if someone visits your site and it sucks, they are not going to come back,” he said.
Panel members also spoke about the importance of having original content on the site. A panelist from Vibe.com spoke about how strategies such as video streams and music are used to make stories more immediate and exciting on the Web than they are in the print version of Vibe.
In other Internet-related developments at the show, a site called Apparelwebmart.com made its debut. The business-to-business site is designed to bring buyers and sellers together in a virtual marketplace and is set to launch this May.
Apparelwebmart.com is starting with a variety of men’s wear categories and has plans to add women’s and children’s apparel and accessories.
“The site is modeled as closely as possible after the standard business practices of stores and suppliers, and is described as an online trade show,” said Marina Bernstein, director of the company.
The site features a service that provides security for delivery of merchandise to the buyer and payment to the seller. A commission is charged on sales, but there is no charge for buyers to use the service or for suppliers to list products on the site.