Sharing The Search Wealth At A9, MSN & The Drawbacks

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
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
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

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 user, As a regular user of, 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 To take advantage of this benefit, join the A9 Instant Reward
program and search on a few days per week. It’s easy and it’s free: go
to and join with one click. 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. 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

Thank you for using

The 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.

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