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Juno moves to the Web

Free email giant Juno is stepping into the Net access fray in an attempt to convert its strictly email subscriber base into Web surfers.

Free email giant Juno is stepping into the Internet access fray in an attempt to convert its strictly email subscriber base into Web surfers.

The new service, called "Juno Web," will bundle together Internet access, a cobranded portal offering powered by Lycos, and Juno's free email service. The service will cost $19.95 per month for unlimited Web access.

Juno will begin by marketing its service solely to its existing 5.5 million free email customers using internal ad banners and promotions. Many sites--including all the major portal players--offer free Web-based email in exchange for users agreeing to receive advertisements within that email. But Juno offers a separate and free email client that allows users to log on with just a modem, a computer, and Juno's software in exchange for users accepting advertisements within their email.

The concept of trading services such as email for advertising was relatively new on the Net when Juno launched its service in April 1996. Now it is a standard.

The new Juno-Lycos service will have a cobranded home page featuring a streamlined version of Lycos' portal site.

The service will include standard search functions and content channels. But the cobranded page will not have Lycos-branded email. Users instead will be required to use the Juno email client.

The two companies will share revenue generated from ad banners on the site.

With the launch of the Internet access service, Juno has the opportunity to convert a large percentage of its users over to its subscription-based Internet access model, opening up a new revenue stream for the company that is not based solely on advertising.

The venture also falls in line with other ISPs that have formed partnerships to provide Internet access bundled with a popular portal. Already, ISP-portal bundles include Yahoo and MCI, while AT&T WorldNet has signed on Excite, Infoseek, and Lycos as partners.

Some analysts were skeptical about the traffic boost that Lycos would get out of the deal.

"It's incrementally positive for Lycos," Volpe, Brown Whelan analyst Andrea Williams said. "It doesn't sound on the scale of an AT&T deal."

Juno also faces challenges in getting the most out of the deal.

Juno traditionally has served an audience known to be less technology-savvy than the bulk of people who log onto the Net on a regular basis.

Many of these users originally signed on with the service because they did not want Internet access, or because they didn't have computer equipment that could handle full Net access, such as high-speed modems or computers with enough memory. For example, most Juno members are using 14.4-kbps or 28.8-kbps modems, Juno president Charles Ardai said. But new computers often come bundled with 56-kbps modems and most Internet service providers will not accommodate computers with modem speeds slower than 28.8 kbps.

"Whenever a group of members are ready to graduate to Web access, they'll find it easier to click on a button than hunting down an alternative and getting a new provider and a new email address," said Ardai.

The ability to convert these users may sound easy, but the company could face resistance to change from an audience base that signed on originally for free email, not Internet access.

"There's definitely potential for conversion, but it's highly unlikely that [they will convert] 80 percent of their installed user base to this access program given what their users are," said Jupiter Communications analyst Mark Mooradian.

Nonetheless, Mooradian added that "even if it's a business they choose to get out of, converting even a few hundred thousand of them becomes a tremendous benefit for them."

In addition to the launch of Juno Web, the company also has launched Juno Gold, an email service that allows users to send file attachments but does not provide Internet access. The service will be priced at $2.95 per month.