The charitable act follows a recent move to charge for new premium services. Kaplan said the new services have met with success, with hundreds of individuals signing up for e-mail news tips for $75.
It's no secret that dot-coms are sitting on a lot of unsold ad space. But analysts said few Web sites offer excess ad inventory for free to nonprofits, a practice that is well-established in traditional media such as print and television. To date, those slots have typically been filled with house ads or used in barter deals, where their value can be booked as revenue.
"Typically when there is remnant space or an odd page that isn't used in a magazine or newspaper, the company will put in a nonprofit advertiser," said Denise I. Garcia, research director in online advertising and promotion for the Gartner Group. She said many nonprofits such as the American Cancer Society and Red Cross supply the major media companies with new ads every quarter.
Advertising on a site such as F***edCompany may be less appealing for such visible nonprofits but could be a good opportunity for others.
"There's a key audience there of Internet executives, investment bankers and regular business people that might have some money to spare on a nonprofit," Garcia said.
Kaplan said that he runs an ad for his design company 80 percent of the time in place of paid advertising. Advertisers on his site include Netword and Webmillion.com.
"I'm wasting that space. And I don't want to give it away to companies. What's the fun in that?" Kaplan said. He said he's received hundreds of e-mails from small Web sites encouraged by his offer.
For example, he said he was contacted by the House Rabbit Society, which hopes to educate people on the dangers of placing rabbits in the care of children. Student associations at universities also want in on the opportunity.
"Everyone with a cause is sending me e-mail and a banner. None of these people have money to run (ads). I'm hoping more people will do this; it will make them feel good and make the world a happier place," Kaplan said.
Serving unpaid ads can be fairly inexpensive, Garcia said. For portals such as Yahoo or Microsoft's MSN, which use proprietary ad servers, the costs can be next to nothing, Garcia said. Web companies using third-party ad servers, such as DoubleClick's DART or L90, can pay anywhere from 25 cents to 35 cents per 1,000 impressions, or appearances of the ad.
She also said that offering free ad space to nonprofits could present a tax break as well.
"Newspapers get to write off a certain amount of money if they give advertising to a nonprofit. So Internet companies could actually benefit from the ad slowdown...by donating space."