EarthLink to target eBay users' vanity

The auction site and Internet provider are teaming up to offer a co-branded Web portal with e-mail "vanity" addresses and auction-tracking services in an attempt to bring Earthlink some of eBay's fierce brand loyalty.

Alorie Gilbert
Alorie Gilbert Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Alorie Gilbert
writes about software, spy chips and the high-tech workplace.
2 min read
EarthLink is hoping to sign up more subscribers to its premium dial-up and high-speed Internet access services with the launch on Wednesday of a special eBay e-mail domain name.

EarthLink will be begin selling e-mail addresses with the domain name PlaneteBay.net to subscribers this week, executives at the Atlanta-based company told CNET News.com. As part of their agreement, EarthLink and eBay have also created a co-branded Web portal, featuring standard portal fare, such as news headlines and local movie schedules, along with personalized auction information from eBay's "My eBay" page.

"An e-mail address is an extension of who you are, especially on eBay," said Tracy Boyd, director of personal start pages at EarthLink. The so-called vanity address "offers extra cache, if you will," she said.

The deal builds on EarthLink's move last month to launch an eBay "widget," an online tool that lets a subscriber track eBay bids from his or her EarthLink start page, the company's customizable Web portal. By expanding ties to eBay, EarthLink hopes the loyalty of the eBay member community will start to rub off, Boyd said.

EarthLink, which has more than 5 million subscribers, has reported that its high-margin premium dial-up service business, which brings in the bulk of the company's revenue, is struggling to keep customers. The company said in January that many dial-up subscribers are switching to broadband, but don't always choose EarthLink's services in that arena. Nevertheless, the company plans to increase its subscriber base by as much as 550,000 this year by growing its broadband business.

EarthLink's premium dial-up service starts at $21.95 per month for up to eight e-mail accounts. Broadband rates vary by subscriber location. The eBay e-mail domain is not available with EarthLink's $10.99-per-month dial-up service, an EarthLink representative said.

To kick-start the eBay e-mail program, the companies plan to auction 100 unique PlaneteBay.net e-mail addresses, including laptops@PlaneteBay.net and antiques@PlaneteBay.net, on eBay for charity. The companies plan to donate the proceeds of the auctions, which will run April 12-18, to Future Business Leaders of America-Phi Beta Lambda, a nonprofit business-education association.