Quebec portal drawing users at home, abroad

After a painfully slow four-year period of development, a Quebec-based Web portal that features an abundance of French-language content is finally starting to attract enough visitors to interest a growing number of international advertisers. While French-language consumers in Quebec and Europe...

After a painfully slow four-year period of development, a Quebec-based Web portal that features an abundance of French-language content is finally starting to attract enough visitors to interest a growing number of international advertisers.

While French-language consumers in Quebec and Europe have been relatively slow to take to the Net – only 10% of French citizens and 29% of Quebecers have home Internet access, compared to 43% in the U.S. and Canada as a whole, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers – i3d Internet Communications has no complaints about its online experience thus far. The St-Georges, Que.-based company’s portal, www.francite.com, recently yielded over three million unique visitors in a single month.

Although it may be less well known among Quebec Web surfers than La Toile du Quebec or

infiniT.com, which are owned by a company controlled by TVA and Le Groupe Vidéotron, respectively, francite.com draws Francophone Web surfers from around the world, with about 40% originating in Europe and another 40% from North America, predominantly Quebec.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the majority of francite.com’s advertisers are based in Europe, according to Michel Begin, a spokesman for i3d, who adds that the look and feel of the site is decidedly European. Among the Canadian advertisers currently on the site are Remax, and Quebec-based hardware chain Rona.

‘There are 80 million French-speaking people in Europe, so it’s more natural to go that way. But we will not neglect the North American market,’ Begin says, pointing out that i3d will soon be reworking the design of its site to appeal to audiences on both sides of the Atlantic.

Faced with a lack of hard numbers about who’s on the Web, Canadian advertisers still don’t entirely trust the Internet, but Begin says he’s confident that as more detailed demographic information becomes available, more advertisers will take a look at what francite.com has to offer.

Although he won’t disclose details, Begin says i3d will soon be beefing up its own on- and offline advertising efforts to boost awareness of and traffic to its site. So far, it has mainly targeted the European market with modest marketing efforts that include banner exchanges with other sites, outbound e-mail campaigns, listings on search engines and word of mouth.

In future, though, 75% of its advertising will be placed in Europe, with the remaining 25% in North America, Begin says. The company also plans to continue adding new features to its site, like travel guides, weekly contests and event ticket sales. It may also launch a Spanish-language site in the not-too-distant future.

Begin says the company plans to hire an advertising agency in the next few months.

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