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Can he take down Yahoo?

Does the world need another general-interest Internet portal? MyWay.com founder Bill Daugherty says the time is right for a commercial-free Web site that swears off pop-up advertisements.

Does the world need another general-interest Web portal?

That's the question put to the creators of MyWay.com, which launched this week. But considering the growing backlash against pop-up advertisements on the Internet, founder Bill Daugherty believes the timing is right for the debut of a commercial-free alternative to Yahoo. (Microsoft's MSN and AOL Time Warner's America Online also will be conspicuously free of commercial pop-ups.)

MyWay.com, whose backers include the people behind sweepstakes Web site iWon.com, gives Web surfers all the conveniences of the free Web--e-mail, financial and weather data, and Google searches. But it strips the site of intrusive advertisements, such as rich media banners and pop-up and pop-under ads, which Daugherty says are saturating other Web sites--Yahoo's in particular.

CNET News.com talked to Daugherty about how he plans to make good on his ambitions--which include turning a profit on the new site in just a month.

Q: Why did you create MyWay.com?
A: We were considering that we obviously had a successful acquisition of Excite--for which we paid $10 million. We'd been profitable since the first day we went into operations with it; and we thought, 'What's the next big opportunity on the Internet?'

And it centered around offering all the content and functionality on the Web--sports, news, weather, e-mail--but taking away the things that have frustrated a large number of Internet users, such as banners and pop-ups and intrusive direct marketing. We know through research that there's a fair number of Yahoo users that are disenfranchised because (Yahoo) has become much more aggressive on the advertising and marketing front.

Given that Google is powering search for MyWay.com, why wouldn't these people just go to Google?
We're combining the best of all worlds: the content and functionality of a portal, the search of Google and less of the increasingly aggressive advertising and direct marketing tactics--specifically, of Yahoo.

But iWon.com has just as many ads that gun for people's attention including pop-ups. Isn't that a contradiction?
I would say the same. We've been innovative in that area, and our site works for advertisers. But it's no less ironic than Time Warner operating the WB and HBO. It's classic market segmentation. Some people will find iWon extremely appealing, and there are people who will find Myway.com's no-ads extremely appealing.

How will you make money?
Out of the gate, we make money through Google's advertisements. (For example), Google sells the ads, Dell pays Google and Google pays us. We will never have pop-up or banner advertising. In certain categories we will do text-based links; providers will pay us a percentage of the listing fee. We're also in discussions with potential travel partners...to have a travel section. Web surfers would be able to book a trip, plan a trip, and we would get a cut from those sales.

We will never have pop-up or banner advertising.
What other companies have you partnered with?
We've partnered with more than 50 content providers, including The Associated Press, Reuters, MSNBC, The New York Times, CBS, The Weather Channel, Standard & Poor's. Every deal is different--some there's no charge at all; some we're paying for.

You've said that the site will be profitable in its first month. How is that possible?
We've done it in a way that leverages our existing cost structure. But it's based on Google's ad listings.

We've defined our expenses. Obviously, if we're profitable in month one, we've structured our relationships so that they make sense. But we're lean and mean, 157 people who are focused on making the site fast and tight.

Text-based advertising is not just for search engines anymore, it's even cropping up on more sites like CNN.com. Is it the next big thing?
It clearly is. It's effective; it works for advertisers; it's very targeted and contextual. If someone is doing a search for computers then the sponsored listing is an ideal place to be, if you are Dell or Gateway. Obviously that model has resonated from Yellow Pages advertising. For whatever you're looking for, it's a great place to advertise because you've got ready customers. We'll do the same thing with personals, another popular area on the Internet. Text-based links on personals, absent of any advertising, will do well with what we're trying to do.

So you're basically targeting every service Yahoo provides?
Yes, absolutely.

How are you going to best Yahoo?
We're in midlevel stages of developing our promotional campaign in the next few months. We're looking to be very aggressive in message, tone and medium.

No comment.

There are some mixed reports on the health of the online advertising industry. Some Net publishers are doing well; others are still struggling. What's your take?
We've been pretty bullish on it. We've been profitable for 13 straight months and 100 percent of our profits come from online advertising. Online advertising, when done correctly, directed at the right audiences, has been successful. We're also bullish on the idea that some people have become turned off by the increasing aggressiveness of some publishers.

Including iWon?
The iWon user is incredibly loyal. We do a lot of research to make sure we're walking that line between effectiveness and intrusiveness. Everybody toes that line. That line is constantly moving. But for us, it's not a point of vulnerability.

How do you protect users privacy?
When you personalize a page we don't ask for your e-mail address, we're not going to rent it, we don't even want it. We're limiting the collection of data and certainly we're not monetizing it. We set cookies in order to customize a page. There are no 'gotchas.' We've intentionally done it clean, straightforward and upfront.