On the day of Lithuania's first declaration of independence from the
Soviets in 1941, Lietuvos Telekomas' Internet subsidiary Takas
announced that its Web site, www.takas.lt, had received its 1
millionth click. Takas started its Web site in April, 1999.
While the independence declared on June 23, 1941, would last only for
a handful of months, this milestone bespeaks a long future. More and
more Lithuanian companies are scrambling into cyberspace, trying to
find a niche that will, eventually, create business opportunities.
For the time being though, most of the players in Lithuanian
cyberspace have little more than visits and hit counts to boast.
Web-based banner advertising has yet to come of age and many of the
most powerful Internet sites are little more than value-added perks
for established businesses.
Lietuvos Rytas, the largest daily newspaper in Lithuania, claims the
top spot in terms of Web site visits, but still doesn't have high
commercial aspirations for its site - at least just yet.
"We can speak about it only for this day, not for tomorrow, not for
next month. It's just an important service for our readers," said
Ricardas Baltaduonis, editor of www.lrytas.lt. "Readers from Europe
and the United States can reach us online so they don't have to wait
until they get the printed version. We respect our readers."
The daily's Web site, www.lrytas.lt, has received well over 8 million
hits since its July 1, 1997 launch and claims a seemingly
insurmountable lead on the pack.
"We reached our first million in about three months after we started.
Nobody can have more accesses than we have. We have more than 20,000
web visits in a day," Baltaduonis said.
While Lietuvos Rytas considers the Internet to be an important medium
for the future, Baltaduonis concedes that revenues have been a little
disappointing so far.
"It's not as good as we think, but it's not bad at all," he said.
The Lithuanian Internet, Baltaduonis reports, is experiencing slow
growth because of the high prices of telephone calls. This won't
change, he predicts, until 2002, when Lietuvos Telekomas loses its
monopoly on fixed line phone services.
This doesn't mean that Lithuania lacks Web-based competition.
According to Darius Bagdziunas, finance director for Gaumina, a Web
development firm, Takas falls somewhere in the middle of the pack in
Internet traffic. The top ones are Lietuvos Rytas's site and
centras.lt, an Internet portal site affiliated with Gaumina.
Delphi, a Latvian Internet service provider with affiliates in
Lithuania, and Takas receive roughly the same amount of hits a day.
Then there is Penki Kontinentai, an Internet service provider and
portal, and Verslo Zinios, the business news daily, which don't
publish their results.
"Verslo Zinios once announced that they had 15,000 visits daily but I
don't personally believe that. It's not possible to have 15,000
visits in Lithuania. Lietuvos Rytas only gets 15,000 visits on a top
day," said Bagdziunas (so disputing Baltaduonis' claim of 20,000
Takas has one distinct advantage as a Web site. Its parent company,
Lietuvos Telekomas, is about as well-endowed as any in Lithuania.
Nevertheless, Lietuvos Telekomas is still trying to transform its Web
presence in this developing Lithuanian information age.
"At the beginning, Takas page was used only for the advertising of
company Internet services, but very soon it has to become an Internet
portal, where Internet surfers would be able to find various
information, create personal chat rooms, shop in electronic shops,
and join into Internet communities," said a Lietuvos Telekomas press
"Everybody except Takas is selling advertising," said Bagdziunas.
"Takas has only their own advertisements."
But no company in Lithuania can earn a living selling banner ads.
Gaumina's portal venture, centras.lt, with its recruitment site, CV
Online, and its Internet auction site, pirk.lt, integrates different
Internet-based solutions to generate revenue.
"Other portals are not so active in integration," said Bagdziunas.
"As for us, we feel the growth of the Internet. We feel the growth of
the demand for more advanced solutions, not only Web sites but for
more interesting projects. There is high competition for us as Web
developers in this market, because new companies are coming."