Free E-mail Provider BlueTie Pairs with Orbitz, MapQuest, Business.com

Free, Web-based e-mail and calendar software typically is supported with display ads or text ads targeted based on actual user e-mail content, which doesn’t sit well with privacy hounds.

In pairing with the likes of Orbitz, MapQuest.com, OpenTable.com and other online services, software provider BlueTie thinks it has found a better revenue model for free software. The firm is integrating features in its free calendar and e-mail applications, provided by partners that pay on a cost-per-action (CPA) or cost-per-click (CPC) basis.

“For a long time the onus has been on users to deal with advertisements in free applications,” said David Koretz, president and CEO of BlueTie. The company’s new sponsor format, deemed the “Featuretisement,” shifts the onus onto software publishers and the advertisers themselves to ensure ads are relevant and useful, he continued.

The Orbitz feature, aimed at small businesspeople, allows users to search for flights, hotels and rental cars directly from their BlueTie application. The search function detects potential scheduling conflicts based on already-booked calendar times, and results appear within the calendar interface itself.

Orbitz will pay BlueTie on a CPA basis, though a CPC model may apply for other partners, according to the arrangement.

Orbitz is particularly interested in attracting business travelers through the pair-up, the first of its kind for the booking service. “We’re primarily shooting for small and midsize businesses and business travelers,” said Jim Cohn, an Orbitz spokesman. “We’re focusing much more on niche markets.” The firm launched its “Tools for the Road Warrior” micro-site in February to offer business globetrotters a hub to make travel arrangements, locate WiFi areas, and find business-friendly lodging.

“Larger companies have the benefit of a managed corporate [travel] program,” said Cohn. “Small business travelers don’t have that.”

In addition to the multi-year Orbitz deal, BlueTie has deployed features from MapQuest and b-to-b business listings provider Business.com. Through the MapQuest integration, for instance, users can right-click on an upcoming meeting to be reminded of driving directions. Business.com search results appear in a window that floats above the actual software interface; the listings provider will pay BlueTie on a CPC basis when users click on search results.

BlueTie has signed on “a dozen” feature partners in all, according to Koretz, who said e-mail fax service eFax, e-mail marketing service Constant Contact and online restaurant reservations providers OpenTable.com and Dinner Broker will have tools integrated with BlueTie’s software in the near future. Koretz expects deals with about 30 feature partners this year.

In all, BlueTie counts 3.5 million users of its paid and free software. The company intends to offer its feature-supported applications to consumer-aimed publishers for syndication sometime down the road, said Koretz. BlueTie also runs e-mail systems for ISP clients.

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