From the October 1998 issue of Startups

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 (http://www2.mallpark.com) 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 (http://www.smartage.com), 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.

A Fare To Remember

When you're looking for low air fares, it pays to shop the online travel sites. Very often, comparison shopping at sites such as Preview Travel (http://www.previewtravel.com), Microsoft's Expedia (http://expedia.msn.com) and Sabre's Travelocity (http://www.travelocity.com) can land you terrific deals.

In addition to posting deals-of-the-day, these travel sites often run special promotions. In May, for instance, Preview Travel ran an offer that was hard to beat: By purchasing a $229 ticket to anywhere in the continental United States on Delta through the Web site, you automatically earned a certificate for half off the next Delta ticket you purchased online.

You can also find great deals on hotels and rental cars. Travelocity, for example, posts special rates every day--rooms at a midtown Manhattan hotel were recently priced at just $59 a night. And Preview Travel offers a service called Carfinder, which helps you find the lowest prices on rental cars at airports. (If you're looking for a hotel, check out Hotel Discounts at http://www.hoteldiscount.com for the lowest rates around.)

Hunting for the best deal is a little like gambling; think too hard while considering a good find, and you could lose that low-priced seat to someone faster than you. And it's no wonder: There's a lot of competition out there for low-priced tickets. According to Media Metrix Inc., a new-media and technology measurement service, Preview Travel's Web site and the AOL travel section site attracted 1,899,000 visitors in April.

Foreign Aid

Most search engines let non-English speakers search for Web-based information that was originally written in their own language. But search engine AltaVista goes one step further, translating the information posted on the Web into English.

Type in a topic (say, "Bill Gates") and select a language (say, French), and you can access French-language material about Bill Gates. You can then click on the word "Translation," which brings up the text in a semblance of English.

Unfortunately, computer translation still has a long way to go. Try this: Enter a topic (say, Honore de Balzac, a 19th century novelist) and you'll find related sites in French (such as the Loire Valley tourist board, which cites Balzac's writing about the area). But hit "Translation" and you get a result that's far from coherent: "With the reverse of Vigny, Honore de Balzac wrote so much on the Loire Valley and on its vall,ees neighbouring, it y drawn of subjects of inspiration, located as well characters there as one would need more than one volume to join together all the texts which are referred to it."

Despite such dismal results, some companies promise improvements. Lernout & Hauspie of Ieper, Belgium, says its new service, iTranslator, offers more accurate translations. But for now, if you want to read an e-mail from Japan, you're probably better off using a dictionary.

Unplugged

It's a gorgeous Indian summer day, and you're going to work--on your tan, that is, outside by the pool. But you also have to attend to those 100 or so e-mail messages. What do you do?

Go wireless. Wireless modems, such as Acer NeWeb Corp.'s new WDC-900, send data from a nearby phone jack through the air--actually, over spread-spectrum radio frequency--to your laptop computer so you can view e-mail messages or other data on your screen.

Such modems require two transceivers that work with your laptop computer. One plugs into the serial port or PS/2 port of your laptop; the other connects to the serial port of your external modem, which then plugs into a phone jack in your house. The result? You'll hear that friendly "you've got mail" voice within 450 feet of the phone jack, even if it's on the other side of a door or wall.

The WDC-900, which sells for $179, is available from Acer NeWeb at http://www.acerneweb.com According to the company, future versions of the WDC-900 will also include a wireless printing feature.

Contact Sources

Lernout & Hauspie, (888) LERNOUT, http://www.lhs.com