In my post-Christmas mailbox was a message from A9 reminding me of its A9 Instant Rewards program that effectively pays me a bit to search with them. That was a perfect hook to revisit the entire "pay to search" idea that Microsoft chairman Bill Gates kicked off earlier this month.
Let's dive in on Microsoft first. Microsoft May Give Consumers A Share in Advertising Revenue from the Wall Street Journal covers how Gates suggested the idea that it might share ad revenues with searchers as part of a presentation he gave in India. Said Gates:
The user essentially will get paid, either money or free content or software things that they wouldn't get if they didn't use that search engine.
The story recounts how similar ideas have been tried like this before. iWon gets mentioned for the giveaway model it pioneered, though as a long-term strategy, that hasn't kept the searchers at the service. To date, semi-copycat Blingo also shows that lightning does not strike twice.
Overture -- now part of Yahoo -- was another pioneer in building traffic through payment. In Overture's case, it paid publishers $0.03 cents per query they delivered. Others soon followed, though these programs later died off. They did get a boost when Google jumped in with its Google AdSense For WebSearch program last year.
That brings us to A9. It was also last year, in September, that the service started giving a 1.5 percent discount off Amazon purchases to those using A9. Well, 1.57 percent, which is pi divided by two, a joke on sharing the "pie" with searchers.
Over a year later, the program pretty much seems to have done nil to massively boost A9's popularity. But maybe the email sent out yesterday will reawaken folks. It said:
Dear A9.com user, As a regular user of A9.com, you get many benefits from the advanced search solutions and the personalization features we offer. In addition, you can receive 1.57%* off virtually everything you buy on Amazon.com. To take advantage of this benefit, join the A9 Instant Reward program and search on A9.com a few days per week. It's easy and it's free: go to http://a9.com/-/search/joinInstantReward.jsp and join with one click.
A9.com offers you results from over 300 sources with a single search including Web, images, blogs, and many more categories. You get the results all on one page that you can personalize for your needs. A9.com also shows you which sites you've already visited. With the A9 Toolbar you can access your bookmarks from any computer and even add your personal notes to every site you visit. Your search history is also available on the toolbar together with informative statistics on every Web site.
For more information on the A9 Instant Reward program, go to http://a9.com/-/company/instantRewards.jsp.
Thank you for using A9.com.
The A9.com Team
* Why 1.57%? Remember pi = 3.1415926535... from mathematics? With our pi/2% instant reward, we are sharing with you some of the revenue from the site. We're sharing the pi(e).
The downside to any pay-for-search plan are some of those other programs like this that long-time search marketers will remember, where those being paid to search were doing it for the money, rather than a side benefit. That was a negative to advertisers footing the bill. They want qualified leads, not work-from-home searchers.
Marketing Execs Lukewarm On Plan To Pay Searchers from MediaPost has two of search marketers sounding less than thrilled over any MSN plans to do pay-per-search because of these reasons.