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AOL now counts 15 million members

The online giant's paying audience just keeps on growing.

America Online's paying audience keeps growing.

The online service today announced that it has reached the 15 million-member mark. AOL counted 14 million members in mid-November, so today's announcement marks the fastest acquisition of a million members in the company's history.

AOL attributed much of the growth to the holiday season. Christmas day saw the most new members signing up in a single day in the online giant's history.

Proportional to Net usage patterns, AOL's new membership rate tends to accelerate during the winter months and slow down during the summertime. Nevertheless, analysts said AOL's major marketing initiatives--such as its most recent AOL 4.0 CD-ROM "carpet bombing" campaign and its spotlight in the film You've Got Mail--have helped it win over new Web users.

"AOL's got great momentum now and their stock has given them a nice bit of free marketing over the past number of months," said Jupiter Communications analyst Mark Mooradian.