In a sharp reversal, mortgage.com is abandoning direct consumer marketing and will focus entirely on a business-to-business strategy.

The change in direction underscores the difficulty many on-line lenders have had in lending over the Internet - and gives fresh ammunition to critics of customer acquisition and branding strategies that try to attract borrowers to mortgage Web sites. "If you're trying to brand a financial service, history has proven that you will fail," said Doug Naidus, chief executive officer of MortgageIT.com, of New York. "The war of who wins on the Internet will be decided by the ability of companies to find cost-effective ways to acquire consumers, and we feel business-to-business is the best strategy."

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