NAB hopes portal will mark the spot


The National Association of Broadcasters is building a Web portal, for the moment dubbed NAB-X, that would serve as a year-round "virtual trade show" for NAB exhibitors. NAB hopes to launch a prototype of the portal, which is being built by Internet consultant AnswerThink, by NAB 2001 in April. The goal is to have a live site up and running by fall, eventually adding business-to-business commerce capability.

The association already runs one of the biggest trade shows in the country annually in Las Vegas, which is what prompted it to ponder an online version.

NAB came up with the idea after the association's main Web site,, received 6 million hits during the week before last year's NAB convention. "[Yahoo CEO] Jerry Yang saw that and said it was equivalent to Yahoo receiving 25 million untargeted hits," says Jerald Fritz, corporate vice president of Allbritton Communications in Washington, who is the NAB's point person on the project. That means NAB could both give advertisers a substantial number of eyeballs and offer vendors a branded place to market and sell their wares.

And those aren't wares one can pick up at the local electronics store.

NAB exhibitors typically are selling complicated, high-end television, computer and satellite equipment-such as antennas, receivers and transmitters-as well as engineering and consulting services. NAB-X will give those vendors a place to offer their goods and services as well as an easy way to keep in touch with each other. The site also will help protect and extend NAB's brand as its annual trade show, which already grosses $25 million a year for the association, continues to grow.

NAB is hoping the portal will be profitable, but even if it is, NAB will keep its non-profit status. "If it makes money," says Fritz, "we can always put it in a separate subsidiary."

AnswerThink will design and build the sites, Fritz says, but NAB will run it in-house.