EarthLink is promoting its agreements with partners such as ABCNEWS.com, ESPN.com, Excite, MiningCo.com, PC Quote, and Wired Digital as a new source of revenue, a key consideration for consumer-oriented ISPs struggling to make money at $19.95-a-month rates.
Some of these sites participated in earlier versions of EarthLink's program. The new arrangements debut later this month.
More than half of EarthLink's 710,000 subscribers already link to a personalized start page when they log on. Under the new scheme, EarthLink users can customize 95 percent of their personal page, compared to just 10 percent today. The ISP says its subscribers are online 39 hours a month and hit their personalized start page seven times per online visit.
"EarthLink gets people connected, and the Personal Start Page points them to content out on the Internet, thereby generating revenue from our Premiere Partners," EarthLink CEO Garry Betty said in a statement.
EarthLink founder Sky Dayton has long argued that ISPs must get users to use a default start page where the ISP can derive revenues, originally via ad revenues and now through content deals with Web sites.
The new EarthLink program, which the company insists is not an effort to become a so-called portal site, is akin to the America Online model, where content providers paid AOL to be on its proprietary online service.
In addition, EarthLink, partially owned by Sprint, signaled that it will pursue similar arrangements with PC hardware and software manufacturers, hoping to derive revenue from a market where brand names are important. Today, users of Apple Computer's iMac computers who sign up for EarthLink go to a co-branded site.
EarthLink pitches the updated program to content partners as another channel to draw traffic to their sites.