An online weather service plans to announce a project next week that will allow consumers to choose their own advertisers in exchange for use of its desktop application.
WeatherBug's project, called Sponsor Select, will allow consumers to choose an advertiser from a list of 10. The chosen marketer would receive one to two days in the sun with the consumer through e-mail and ads on WeatherBug, a free weather-data reporting tool downloaded by more than 7 million Web surfers.
"In the same way people are able to choose where to go on the Internet, why not let them choose what kind of ads they want to see?" asked Andy Jedynak, vice president of business development for AWS Convergence Technologies, WeatherBug's owner.
Like many Web publishers suffering through an advertising drought, WeatherBug has been trying to attract ad buyers without repelling consumers.
Last year, the company tried to support itself by bundling shopping tool Gator with the service, allowing it to make money from Gator's ad sales. But the company found that the economics didn't pan out. It has also tried banner ads to no avail.
The latest tactic is also far from a sure thing.
"It's a gimmick that WeatherBug is using to draw advertisers," said Jupiter Media Metrix senior analyst Marissa Gluck. "So what (if) you have that consumer for 24 hours? It takes a lot longer than that to build a brand."
Still, Gluck said that by asking consumers to pick their own advertisers, WeatherBug would increase the chances of showing ads relevant to their audience, adding that relevancy is the most important factor in creating effective advertising.
WeatherBug, which provides PC users with weather data from around the world, sells an ad-free version of its application for $19.95 a year. But it is banking heavily on the success of the ad-supported version. Advertisers include Ameriquest, Investor's Business Daily and Discover Card.
"We want to make sure these people are qualified customers," said WeatherBug's Jedynak. The project "does a good job of matching consumer and advertiser together."