By Colby Horton
Shop Site of the Month
New Concept Auto Service - Overland Park, Kan.
This site offers a clean look, professional graphics and a nice Flash animation scheme. The home page presents information in a concise manner while subsections are well organized. The "Services Offered" section is the site's nicest feature. Graphical representations of each service are linked to detailed descriptions of the service, complete with photos. Visitors are also treated to online coupons.
AOL: The Times They Are a Changin'
If you were like most people, your first introduction to the Internet was a melodic male voice that said, "You've got mail!" In the beginning, there was America Online. You received your nicely packaged, unsolicited CDs in the mail, and you couldn't wait to install the software because you got 800 minutes free. That's right: You had to pay for the Internet by the minute. You accessed the Web through AOL's customized Web browser. If you wanted to search the Web, America Online was your first stop. AOL was king, and it would be a while before there was a challenger.
But times have changed. Fast-forward 10 years. Google accounts for 50 percent of all Internet searches. Yahoo! offers free 100 MB e-mail accounts. Microsoft's Internet Explorer is the most used Web browser. Where did AOL go?
At the height of AOL's popularity in 2002, AOL had more than 35 million subscribers. During this year's second quarter, AOL reported 17.7 million subscribers. In an effort to save the company, AOL confirmed last month that it would begin to offer its services, which includes e-mail, software and parental controls, for free. Their strategy is changing significantly. AOL is focusing on Web-based advertising rather than subscriber-based income. AOL is hoping that by making services free, it can prevent users from defecting to Yahoo, Google and MSN, which have offered free, ad-supported e-mail for years. This new strategy takes effect early this month.
While customers with broadband no longer will have to pay AOL anything, the company will still offer dial-up accounts at $26 a month for unlimited use. And to compete with cheaper dial-up services, AOL is creating a new $10 monthly plan with unlimited access but fewer features than the $26 plan.
Subscribers who dropped AOL within the past two years - which accounts for about 6 million households - will be able to reclaim their old AOL.com addresses simply by logging on with their old passwords.
AOL sees new opportunities on the horizon. Last month, AOL revamped its video portal to give visitors one-stop access to video clips from the Web, including from rival sites such as YouTube and Google.
YouTube - a Web site allowing users to upload, view and share video clips - is the fastest-growing site this year, increasing traffic by 297 percent from a monthly audience of 4.9 million in January to 19.6 million in June.
ASA Web Ways
ASA's Information Center
The Automotive Service Association (ASA) offers its members access to an information center containing citations and abstracts to the latest commentary on such topics as business management, employee hiring, business statistics, legal issues, customer service ideas and repair statistics. A convenient search engine is also provided to help you find the pertinent information you are looking for. This database is updated each week, and you can easily request additional information on abstracts by using the convenient "shopping cart" feature. Articles and reports are e-mailed, faxed or mailed to ASA members free of charge. The Information Center is located in the Members Only area of ASA's Web site, www.ASAshop.org.