Freeserve goes instant

Instant messaging is the latest online fad, and Freeserve wants to increase revenues by offering ads and sponsorship on its service.

Freeserve is hoping to tap into the burgeoning instant messaging market by offering advertising opportunities on its new Freeserve Messenger service.

Developed “at record speed” following encouragement from the company’s new owner, Wanadoo, the free instant messaging tool will enable Freeserve’s 4.1 million users to communicate with each other in real time.

The company expects Freeserve Messenger to be used by 300,000 users within its first year, adding extra “stickiness” to the overall Freeserve offering.

Like its rivals from Yahoo!, AOL and Microsoft’s MSN, Freeserve Messenger stays active on the desktop even when a Web browser is not in use. Users are alerted by a visual and/or audible signal when another Freeserve Messenger user wants to “talk” to them.

The prominent position of the messenger software on a user’s desktop “guarantees access to a captive audience and a dominant presence for advertisers”, claims Freeserve. It says it will only charge advertisers for occasions when the user chooses to refresh Messenger.

Because instant messaging still has a lot of novelty value, users will be “more likely to view and react to associated advertising messages”, says Caroline Pathy, advertising sales director at Freeserve.

Types of advertising available on Freeserve Messenger will include banners and “fully integrated” sponsorship packages. The service will be launched over the next few weeks, and will be supported by “heavy” online promotion via the Freeserve Today homepage and the Communities and Communications channels.

Pathy says the Messenger medium will offer communication and advertising options across banner ads, sponsorship and branded microsites within Freeserve and its related sites. These include ClearlyBusiness, iCircle.com, FreeservePlus (Freeserve’s ADSL portal), ONdigital and Freeserve’s WAP and iTV portals.

Freeserve claims to have had over 2 million “active registered” accounts and 297 million page impressions in February. Wanadoo is majority owned by France Telecom.

Nestlé is sponsoring MSN’s Instant Messenger service.

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