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AOL inks deals with Netcentives, American Airlines

The online giant takes a stake in the software developer and will begin offering reward perks with some of its services.

America Online has taken a stake in software developer Netcentives and will begin offering reward perks with some of its services.

San Francisco-based Netcentives' technology will power two incentive programs on AOL. These include AOL AAdvantage, a frequent flyer program run by the online service giant and American Airlines; and "ICQ ClickRewards" for the AOL-owned instant messaging community.

AOL also will take a minority stake in Netcentives, the companies said. They would not disclose terms of the deal.

Shares of Netcentives surged 15 percent in early trading to $71.50. AOL was trading as low as $56, down from its opening price of $58.50.

AOL AAdvantage will be a three-year cross-marketing partnership with American Airlines. AOL users will be able to gain frequent flyer miles by shopping on AOL-owned services, including CompuServe, Digital City, Netscape and AOL.com. AOL users can also gain miles by signing up for services on AOL, such as its "You've Got Pictures" online photo publisher and its "My Calendar" online scheduler.

American Airlines travelers enrolled in its frequent flyer program also can use their acquired miles on AOL. Users can exchange miles to pay for AOL subscription fees, merchandise sold on AOL, and other perks such as music downloads.

"This is a great way for (American Airlines) to dot-com their part of the business and to have access to our 20 million-plus members," Ted Leonsis, AOL's president of interactive properties, said in an interview. "This is aimed at the next 20 million who come online."

Meanwhile, AOL will market Netcentives' ClickRewards service on its ICQ instant messaging service. The companies will create ICQ ClickRewards in an effort to tap ICQ's more international user base. ICQ has 50 million registered users.

ClickRewards issues frequent flyer miles to Web users who shop on participating e-commerce sites, including FTD.com, CDNow, E*Trade and Barnesandnoble.com.

For Netcentives, having AOL use its technology to market incentives to the millions of Web users who visit its services could boost its database of users. Netcentives already has similar deals with Lycos, Disney's Go.com portal and American Express.

Netcentives is like an online coupon service. When users shop on its partner sites, the company issues currency that can be exchanged for other goods and services. The company also manages the accounts of all individuals who participate in these programs, which it will do for new members who sign up for the AOL-branded services.