The creators of the popular sweepstakes site Riddler will start targeting ads to Netizens over a network of individual Web pages on April 1, the latest example of the way companies are harnessing the talent of independent Web designers.
Interactive Imaginations (II), based in New York, already has an aggregation of sites at the Commonwealth Network. The sites involved are created by independent Web producers who agreed to run banner ads from the conglomerate in return for a percentage of the revenue.
Now II plans to refine the Commonwealth Network and use registration and customization to target ads specifically to users. The company also plans to add display ads--full-page ads that pop up on the screen while the user surfs the site.
"Think about it as pushing ads," said Michael Paolucci, chairman and chief executive officer of II. "I can push a full-page ad into thousands of Web sites across the Internet."
The plan is based on II's current model at Riddler, a popular gaming site where users agree to divulge personal information in exchange for the chance to win prizes.
Whenever users access any of the sites on the revamped Commonwealth network, they'll be asked to register, Paolucci explained. Just like Riddler, in exchange for their names, gender, and age, they'll be given the chance to win prizes, ranging from cars to CDs.
Once a user registers, II takes that information and pumps it into databases where personal data, such as catalog purchases, are tracked. The user also is tracked by member name when he or she surfs through a Commonwealth site.
The idea is that over time, II will be able to gather more and more personal information. The goal is to develop a detailed personal profile; the more personal information the company has, the better it can target ads, and the more it can charge companies for doing so.
Privacy experts have bemoaned the practice of using the Web to gather personal information. But Paolucci counters that the user enters into the agreement voluntarily--in exchange for the opportunity to win fabulous prizes.
"The beauty of this is that people sign up for this," he said. Unlike cookies which can be used to surreptitiously collect information about surfers, this is voluntary, he added.
And, it provides a way for independent Web designers to make some money off their pages. At Commonweath, Webmasters, who used to labor for free, get a percentage of the ad revenue.
"Our mission--We want to be the Random House of the Internet," Paolucci said. "I want to publish for the creative types."
II is not the only company targeting the creative powers of Netizens. Web start-up, The Mining Company, is using a strikingly similar idea. The Mining Company will feature 4,000 separate Web sites run by Netizens. In exchange for serving as a "guide," the hosts get $250 a month or 40 percent of the ad revenue sold on their pages--whichever is greater.
At the Mining Company, the idea is to start surfers at their home page and help them navigate the Web.
But at II, the idea is to bring sites onto the Network that already generate lots of traffic--and make some money.
Initially, II will start out with 250 members. From there it will grow, Paolucci said.
II's new plan also changes the way it charges companies for banner ads. The industry standard has been to charge companies for banner ads based on the number of people who will see them. But II is so confident about their new model that they're planning on charging based only on the people who actually click on the banners, Paolucci said.