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Blink and Pay: Bookmark Start-up Goes Premium

Looking to add new sources of revenue in a depressed advertising environment New York-based technology startup Blink.com plans to roll out an ad-free premium version of its bookmarking service.

Blink, which builds software that helps to sort lists of "favorite" URLs that surfers keep on their browsers, will unveil a BlinkPro premium product for the enterprise market sometime in September.

Blink president Ross Garon told atNewYork the premium jump was not a sign the company was abandoning its free service, which helps users store and organize their personal bookmarks as well as access them from multiple computers and wireless devices.

"As we've developed and expanded the (free) Blink service, we found that a business-based subset was using it in a professional environment. And, the advertising was distracting from the functionality so we added some enhancements and removed the advertising," Garon said.

Although pricing for the BlinkPro premium service has not yet been fixed, Garon said it would be in the range of $5 per month. Premium enhancements would allow bookmark sharing, collaboration and the ability to publish links.

"In a corporate environment, Blink users tend to do a lot of bookmark collaboration and sharing. So, that will be our target. We have reached critical mass with our users to the point where a segment sees Blink as a business tool."

Blink has signed up about 1.5 million users for the free service and Garon said a "significant" portion of that membership base has indicated an interest in paying for an ad-free option.

The move by Blink mirrors a general pattern for Internet companies trying to convince freeloaders to pay for services but Garon insisted this was not a desperation move.

"We're not betting the company on it. We are keeping the free service. A lot of companies are going paid because they can't survive. So, they turn off their free service and implement premium services. That's not what we're doing. Advertising will remain a fair portion of our business."

The 25-employee Manhattan firm is on solid financial footing, Garon said.

He declined specifics on Blink's monthly burn rate but said the company had "enough cash in the bank to be around for significantly more than the next year."

"Even if we don't grow revenues at all or no one pays for BlinkPro service, we have cash to stay in business," he added.

It helps, too, that most of Blink's direct competitors -- among them Backflip, Clickmarks and Hotlinks -- have either shifted away from the business-to-consumer space or shuttered operations altogether.

Blink has raised a total of $13 million since its launch in 1999. Garon said the company is not actively looking to raise money. Venture capital backers include Sandler Capital Management and Palisade Capital.