What it is: A customer-acquisition tool that allows consumers to pay for a service by accepting a complementary offer. For example, people browsing Zagat.com might be interested in a subscription to the dining-review site but unwilling to shell out $24.95 a year for it. They could be offered a free subscription as long as they buy something they are willing spend money on: a subscription to The Economist, cigars from an online tobacco merchant or car insurance from Geico.
The back story: Founder Alex Rampell has been creating shareware since he was 15 but found it was difficult to get people to buy the free software once the trial period was over. He thought those people who weren't willing to pay for shareware might be willing to pay for something else. And if he could turn those customers over to the right advertisers, which would be willing to pay him for the lead, both parties could win. While incentive marketing has been around forever -- get something free for signing up for a credit card, for example -- the web has enabled TrialPay's matching service.
Who's behind it: TrialPay has backing from venture-capital firms Battery Ventures and Index Ventures as well as a few individuals, including Bob Pittman and Ron Conway.
Who's using it: The company has signed on 2,000 direct-response-focused advertisers and 1,100 merchants. It's served about 2.8 million unique visitors among those merchant sites. Revenue is in the low nine figures.
The big picture: Last week, Ad Age took a look at a group of online destinations that could be considered media companies even though that's not their primary focus. Mr. Rampell said TrialPay's not that different: It's allowing