Internet

Webmasters: AOL wants you

Following similar initiatives among e-commerce players, America Online targets Web site owners in hopes of boosting its subscription rolls.

Following similar initiatives among e-commerce players, America Online is targeting Web site owners in hopes of boosting its subscription rolls.

The company today announced it has launched an affiliate marketing program, offering Web site owners cash for subscriber referrals. The company said it will pay $15 to every Web site administrator whose referral stays with AOL for a minimum of 90 days. In addition, AOL will offer bonuses to administrators who refer certain numbers of monthly registrations, such as $75 for 25 monthly registrations and $175 for 50.

As part of the program, AOL will provide referral buttons and banners advertising AOL for Web site operators to post on their sites.

"For years AOL has offered our strategic partners the opportunity to promote our...service, and we are now excited to extend that opportunity out to...other Web sites," Jan Brandt, AOL's president of marketing, said in a statement.

Claudine Singer, an analyst at Jupiter Communications, said the move underscores AOL's efforts to find more cost-effective ways to increase subscriber numbers. The company has gained notoriety with its aggressive CD-ROM "carpet bombing" campaigns that have cost the company hundreds of millions of dollars.

"It's a really low-cost way to carpet bomb online," Singer said.

The practice of affiliate marketing is not new. Other companies, especially online retailers such as Amazon.com, CDNow and Barnesandnoble.com, use the same marketing technique.