Sites Offer Subscription-Only Ad-Free Versions

"This option to view without banners and pop-ups, that is going to attract people who are averse to that kind of thing," Hurley adds. "They don't want to be marketed to. When those people are marketed to they complain to me and they complain to our advertisers. So our advertisers understand. … Taking those people out of the pool isn't necessarily a problem."

Hurley said he believes the premium users will be so few at first so as not to dramatically affect the number of viewers of the free site, and, therefore, the amount of money that the company can charge to advertisers for ad space.

Content Is Key

Walter Janowski, research director for customer relationship manager marketing at Gartner, is not convinced the next generation of Internet ad formats immediately on the way will be sufficiently intrusive to prompt widespread use of Salon's new subscription service. He believes the success or failure of the subscription site will ride on the strength of the exclusive content.

"Ultimately, if you have content that is important enough and compelling enough for people to want it, like The Wall Street Journal, people will pay for that," he says.

"You can't charge for weak content, [but] you can probably charge very much for very strong content," he adds. "I think Salon could have some reasonable success given that they have a little bit of a cult status in what's left of the old-world Internet community."

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