Lycos Drops Ads for Fee

Continuing efforts by the major portals to insulate themselves from the decline in advertising revenue, Terra Lycos plans to begin offering two new subscription services for homepage builders.

Previously, the Madrid-based company’s Tripod and Angelfire sites, which let users build their own homepages, were supported entirely through embedded or pop-up advertising. A total of about 21 million users had pages on the two sites, Lycos said.

Now, the portal, which has its U.S. headquarters in Waltham, Mass., plans to charge $10.00 initially and $4.95 monthly for ads-free Web hosting via its Tripod Plus and Angelfire Plus services.

Paying users also receive five additional megabytes of disk space, a shorter URL, and a greater bandwidth allocation than advertising-supported pages. Users also can shell out an additional $4.95 for still more disk space or bandwidth.

While subscription services are still a relative novelty online — with critics contending that Web surfers used to free content and services would never stoop to paying — Terra Lycos spokespeople painted the move as an effort to address users’ requests.

“The most popular request we receive from our Tripod and Angelfire members is ad-free Web site hosting,” said Katie Rae, general manager of Web publishing for Terra Lycos. “Our new Plus services not only give members what they’ve been asking for, but also gives them the ability to obtain extra disk space, share files with friends, host images for auction sites and much more. Members now have greater options to build their sites on their own terms.”

Still, executives wouldn’t deny that the move is also part of the company’s plan to gradually reduce its dependency on Web advertising. Earlier this year, the company introduced fees at its financial information site and dating site — services for which it felt user demand would outweigh their reluctance to pay.

“The new Tripod Plus and Angelfire Plus packages continue our commitment to introduce value-added subscription services, transitioning our users from strictly free services to higher value paid services,” said Terra Lycos U.S. president Stephen Killeen, who also said the company’s two earlier services were proving “sucessful.”

The move comes just months after competitor Yahoo! rolled out a similar package for its Geocities homepage-hosting site. Last month, Yahoo! chief executive Terry Semel said he believed his company would ultimately make half its money from non-advertising sources.

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