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2HRS2GO: Meet the next online fad

"Hi, I'd like to thank everyone for coming to the press conference this morning.

"I'll try to keep it short, I know you folks have deadlines to meet, other news to cover. (Speaking of which, I'm sure I speak for all when I say that I breathlessly await the next iterations of "Windows 2000 is coming", "Linux is gaining" and "Apple is back" stories)

"We here at Non Financial Services are about to offer something that will completely revolutionize Internet stock trading, and perhaps the very nature of investing itself. It's an extremely bold initiative we're planning. No doubt it will have many naysayers, many critics. But make no mistake -- this will work. People will buy into this.

Have an opinion on this?

"Perhaps I should rephrase that, since people won't be 'buying' anything in a literal sense -- quite the opposite as a matter of fact.

"You all know about the "Free" movement: free Internet access, free PCs, free operating system, free toy with a Happy Meal and so on. That's a good start, but only a start. We are going beyond that model. Because free isn't enough.

"With that in mind, I'd like to now introduce to you the latest revolution in online investing: Paid to Trade.

"You heard it right. We'll pay you, the individual investor, for stock buys you make through us. For every 10 shares or options bought -- of any stock at all -- you get a dollar from us. Just think: buy 50 shares of your favorite stock and you can buy lunch.

"The sign-up is free. Just go to our website, fill out the form and start buying stocks. Trading through us requires you to download a proprietary browser plug-in that allows you to make stock buys quickly, reliably and efficiently. When you put in a buy order with us, it will go through as fast or faster than it would with any of the other guys.

"Customers of Non Financial Services also get access to news, charts, data and our own stock recommendations, so you can take a look at the stocks we like at the moment. And believe us, we know how important stocks of the moment are to many online traders.

"Our secret to profitability is no secret at all: advertising, of course. We believe that Paid to Trade will deliver a targeted audience to select advertisers, particularly newly public technology and Internet-related firms. This momentum will also be self-sustaining; as more advertisers come aboard and see the results that their targeted ads have on their stock price, others will follow suit. We hope to become the advertising venue of choice for companies debuting on the stock market.

"You can also sell stocks through us, of course, as we are a fully licensed brokerage firm. Be assured that we will be as fast and efficient as ever with sales. But the Paid to Trade program only applies to stock buying; we want to reward you for optimism. And because Paid to Trade is limited to stock buying only, our advertisers know they'll be reaching an audience ready to spend money.

"Naturally, all standard brokerage rules apply, including margin limits and so on. We'll be releasing those details over the next few weeks, but rest assured that we will do everything in our power to encourage you, the individual investor, to continue buying with us.

"No doubt many of you are aware that the online trading industry could see its first slowdown ever in this quarter. We believe this business model is poised to usher in the next wave of online investing. The Internet will be THE medium of choice for the stock market. We're here to make that happen.

"With that, I'll be happy to entertain any questions."

Other issues:

  • Lycos Inc.
  • (Nasdaq: LCOS) Paying other websites to deliver clickthroughs reeks of desperation, but a Lycos spokeswoman insists the move is designed to "really benefit the affiliate sites and the users out there."

    Right. And it has nothing to do with the fact that Media Metrix's rankings indicate the Lycos network's traffic stayed flat in June while America Online and Yahoo saw increases. Yahoo's jump was largely fueled by Geocities, but you can't use that as an excuse because acquisitions also powered most of Lycos' growth over the last couple of years.

  • NetScout Systems Inc.
  • (Nasdaq: NTCT) Today's early gain of more than a point is nothing to complain about for this network management software vendor's IPO, considering the overall market's up-and-down ride; in any case, the stock was climbing faster in the afternoon.

    Investors probably were amazed to find a newly public tech company that's actually profitable. NetScout relies heavily on Cisco, but that's understandable in light of Cisco's dominant position in the market at the moment.

  • Scientific-Atlanta Inc.
  • (NYSE: SFA) The provider of set-top boxes and networks for cable and satellite systems is scheduled after today's market close to report fourth quarter results. First Call's survey of 11 analysts predicts a profit of 28 cents a share.

    Broad indices briefly recovered from a mid-morning slide, but by mid-afternoon they were heading lower again. With two hours left in regular trading, the Nasdaq Composite Index had slipped 0.31 to 2564.67, while the S&P 500 clung to a gain of 3.98 to 1305.91. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 42.75 to 10830.55. 22GO>