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Banner Idea

Our guide to what's new, what's hot, what's helpful on the Web.

So you've launched your Web site and opened the virtual doors to your business. Now you hope to attract advertisers or co-sponsors to help you support the site. What's it going to cost you? The good news: The typical banner ad at online mall Mallpark ( costs an average of $10 per month. The better news: Why pay for an online ad campaign when you can get it free?

Enter SmartAge (, a San Francisco-based Internet services start-up and the brainchild of William Lohse, former publisher of PC Magazine. One of the company's most popular services allows small-business Netizens to trade banner ads with one another for free.

Here's the deal: SmartAge sets up an exchange between you and, say, Joe's Neckties; you and Joe's then run each other's banner ads. To date, SmartAge has set up exchanges among 30,000 small-business sites; it handles more than 1 million banner ads daily.

In exchange, SmartAge sells space on your Web site to interested parties. SmartAge also makes money through services like tracking responses to your ads on other sites and setting you up with e-commerce capability so you can securely sell your products or services over the Web. The price for such services runs between $5 and $100 per month, depending on what you need.

Bronwyn Fryer writes about technology for Newsweek, C/NET and other publications from her office in Santa Cruz, California.

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