Juno Online Services, the leader in free, advertiser-supported email, is readying a plan to give its 3.4 million subscribers free Internet access-as long as the members don't stray from its advertisers' Web sites.
Netizens may turn up their noses at such a service, since the new feature blocks users from roving the Internet outside the borders set by advertisers. However, Juno president Charles Ardai sees the initiative as a way for the company to attract more advertisers. "We want to put as easy a system in place as possible to give advertisers and media buyers comfort," he said. Currently, Juno advertisers, which have included Delta Air Lines and Bausch & Lomb, buy rotating banner ads on the service, which can link to further advertiser content. The content, however, has to be created specifically for Juno.
Ardai denied the restricted format has caused advertisers to shy away, although he admitted Juno has been slow to close ad deals. He would not disclose who had signed up for the new feature. As far as pricing the service, Juno will allow marketers to buy ads on a click-through basis.
The Internet access plan, currently in a beta test, will be the only connection to the Internet for most of Juno's subscribers. According to Ardai, Juno's email users don't seem to mind they will get an advertiser-only peek at the Web. "We have not seen any frustration," he said.
Greg Smith, director of strategic services at Darwin Digital, said the move will probably help Juno gain formerly reluctant advertisers. Advertisers "are loathe to do a special [ad] size for anyone," he said.
As to whether Juno could become a fully ad-supported, free Internet service provider, Ardai said the economics aren't "feasible for us, or for anyone else."