Paid links: Not just for search anymore

Taking a cue from Google and Overture, the man behind the Web's most famous dot-com dead pool is providing a sponsored link exchange for the masses.

Paul Festa Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Paul Festa
covers browser development and Web standards.
Paul Festa
2 min read
Taking a cue from Google and Overture Services, the man behind the Web's most famous dot-com dead pool is providing sponsored links for the masses.

Philip Kaplan, creator of the widely read F***edCompany.com site for news and rumors about layoffs and other corporate misfortune, launched MarketBanker, a site that lets people purchase and post their own text links on participating Web sites.

MarketBanker evolved out of HTTP Ads, a self-service banner ad exchange Kaplan launched last year. Kaplan attributed the change to the fact that both consumers and advertisers loathe banner ads, while sponsored links appeal to both.

"HTTP Ads didn't do great on other sites, and that's because banner ads are terrible," said Phil Kaplan, founder of PK Interactive, a Web design agency in New York. "But with text links, people love to buy them and love to click on them."

The day he offered to sell sponsored links on his dead pool for $95 per week, Kaplan immediately found 20 buyers.

Sponsored links within search engines have proved one of the Internet advertising market's few bright spots. Companies like Google and Overture have prospered by selling sponsored links as part of search results with the promise that the ads will be delivered to an audience with an express interest in the product.

As of yet, sponsored links haven't taken off among non-search sites. But Kaplan says smaller, specialized sites and Web logs provide a highly targeted advertising environment comparable to that of a search results page.

"Think about a blog or a fan site for a certain car model," Kaplan said. "Anyone who goes to the Web site is going to be interested in this car. MarketBanker is the everyman's Overture."

As the middleman in the advertising sale, MarketBanker keeps 20 percent of the proceeds. Kaplan and his engineers are currently at work on a version that will permit buyers to designate a per-day spending limit based on a set click-through price.

Kaplan is launching his new service as older projects stall or shut down entirely. He shuttered a classifieds service launched a year ago called PostGet. And F***edCompany revenue is down, and its good-news sister site, LuckedCompany, finds a new item to post only once a day or so, according to Kaplan.

Still, the serial Webmaster and entrepreneur has plans to market his home-grown bulletin-board posting application on the idle PostGet domain and says that revenue from new ventures has made up for failed experiments.

"I'm happy to have new successes that aren't" failing, Kaplan said.