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RealTime IT News

Free E-Greetings Going Away

Web sites need money and "even bears need honey," so the AmericanGreetings.com site is advising visitors that they "must now charge a small fee for unlimited access" to its most popular greetings.

Although some basic electronic greetings "will always remain free," the company said, it is now charging $11.95 a year, which allows members access not only to e-greeting cards but also to an address book, three family accounts and software tools for creating and printing cards at home.

The same is true for AmericanGreetings' other sites, including Egreetings Network and the recently acquired BlueMountain.com operation.

David D. Poplar, American Greetings investor and media relations manager, explained the impetus of the deal to InternetNews.com.

"Our electronic subsidiary had been losing money in the past couple years, but is on track to be profitable in the fourth quarter this year, primarily as a result of advertising revenue," Poplar said. "The subscription model is part of our goal to diversify our revenue streams and maximize our profitability potential."

Asked how many folks have signed up so far, Poplar said that the number is "undisclosed, but the results thus far have exceeded our expectations."

AmericanGreetings.com is much visited, and in fact recorded nearly 1.6 million visitors during the week of Thanksgiving. BlueMountain.com scored 2.9 million visitors that week, according to figures from Internet audience measurement service Nielsen//NetRatings.

Free competition remains, however, at least for now, from sites like Hallmark.com (the e-cards remain free; they cross-sell gift certificates), eUniverse's flowgo.com and others. But it's clear that as the Internet economy has contracted and ad dollars have dried up, it's increasingly difficult for many sites to continue giving away product.