Ad-Supported Wi-Fi Network Launches

The next time you pull out your laptop or wireless device in your local coffee shop to log into its Wi-Fi network, you may be presented with an ad that pays for your access, thanks to the recently launched AnchorFree network.

Broadband wireless hotspots have multiplied exponentially over the past several years, as commercial, retail and hospitality businesses provide Internet access as part of their overall service. But, many businesses foot the bill for their users’ access or require customers to purchase time to surf the Internet. With AnchorFree, the company offers businesses the means of providing free ad-supported broadband wireless access, while giving advertisers the opportunity to reach viewers at specific locations.

Consumers on an AnchorFree hotspot are presented with a display ad that remains at the top of the screen with every Web site they visit, and those ads can be contextually matched to the content on each page, according to Mark Smith, EVP strategy and product development for AnchorFree.

“Regardless of what page they go to, we have them for a period of time,” said Smith, “And we screen-scrape the page and feed it into the targeting engine to present them with the most significant ad.”

As each hotspot has a specific location that users must be near to get access to the service, it allows advertisers to precisely geo-target their ad campaigns, more so than relying on ISP location information alone, said Smith. AnchorFree provides ad sales for the network, but has also partnered with ad rep firm Gorilla Nation and allows site owners to sell their own ads.

The company has already signed advertisers to its network, including American Express, AirTran, Circuit City, Clorox, Ford, Harrah’s, Kaiser Permanente, Major League Baseball, McDonald’s, Princess Cruises, Prudential, Qwest and Toyota.

AnchorFree has also signed with seven hotspot operators, including Deep Blue Wireless, ICOA, and WiFi Guys. To woo new hotspot operators to its network, AnchorFree will also provide free wireless hardware to sweeten the deal.

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