This story was written by Keith Dawson for the Industry Standard's Media Grok email newsletter. It is archived here for informational purposes only because The Standard's site is no more. This material is Copyright 1999-2001 by Standard Media.

Wal-Mart Wants You to Surf Like It's 1999

Jun 04 2001 10:32 AM PDT

The retailer plans to offer its own discount Web service, and some in the press wonder why.

A number of outlets ran an AP story by Chuck Bartels about Wal-Mart's much-delayed introduction of its own branded online service. The offering results from a 1999 partnership with (who else?) AOL. It will be based on the CompuServe online service, which has long since been acquired by AOL. Bartels reported that it will be priced below $10 per month.

Bartels questioned the wisdom of introducing a bargain ISP service at this point in the tech slump, noting that other "experiments to offer free or low-cost Internet service have been largely unsuccessful." The reporter quoted a Gartner analyst who "questioned the buying power of those consumers that is aiming to reach." A Wal-Mart spokesman responded with this spectacularly mixed metaphor, "We can't back off on growth. The ball's on our shoulders."'s Melinda Patterson Grenier compared the planned Wal-Mart Connect service in detail with its rival Kmart's, which has offered three-tier Internet service since December 1999. By some odd coincidence, this is the same month that saw the announcement of the Wal-Mart-AOL deal. Grenier raised more questions about Wal-Mart's business model by pointing out that had recently changed its terms of use to charge users who are not buying anything from the site. Wal-Mart has no plans for such a tie-in.

SatireWire gets the last word on Wal-Mart Connect. Here's how the site's brief story sets the scene for the retailing giant's announcement: "Emerging from the deep, isolated cavern where its executives apparently have been hibernating for the past two years, Wal-Mart Friday proudly announced ..." Boy, it's bright out here.