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Extra credit for viewing ads

CyberGold will credit consumers' Visa bills when they view advertisements on the company's Web site, the first system of its kind.

In the first system of its kind, CyberGold announced today that it will begin crediting consumers' Visa bills when they view advertisements on the company's Web site or on sites that carry a CyberGold logo.

Consumers will be paid 50 cents to $5 for each ad they view to a spending limit of $100 per month, according to CyberGold chief executive Nat Goldhaber.

The deal is the latest example of interactive Net elements used to create new models for marketing. However, some Netizens complain that such practices are too commercial.

For example, in the CyberGold promotion, users typically have to answer some questions about a product when they view the ad. To open a CyberGold account, they also have to provide information such as their email address.

But the company says "this information will be kept totally confidential and will never be released without [a user's] consent."

The money used to credit consumers comes from advertisers, which are willing to pay in return for receiving a verifiable response to an ad. The payments previously could be deposited in a bank account or donated to a nonprofit group.

"Now you can pay off your credit card with it," Goldhaber said of the new option. CyberGold will pay the Visa transaction fee that comes with the credit card deal, at least for now, he said.

CyberGold makes money based on the number of people who view the ad. The company still is losing money but edging closer to profitability, Goldhaber added.

The company's founders include Goldhaber, former chief executive of Kaleida Labs (the multimedia venture between Apple Computer and IBM), and veteran advertising and marketing executives Regis McKenna and Jay Chiat.