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THE CUTTING EDGE | CYBERNEWS | HEARD ON THE BEAT

June 24, 1996|AMY HARMON

Attention, Surfers: If you could get paid a dollar a minute to read an ad, would you do it? Would you maybe even actively seek out a site that allowed you to do it? And would you eventually provide enough information about yourself so you could earn money looking at the ads that most interested you?

CyberGold Inc., a start-up founded by software entrepreneur Nat Goldhaber, is betting you will. The company, which activates its World Wide Web site in an experimental form today, describes itself as an "attention broker."

With literally millions of sites on the Web and hundreds of advertisers jockeying (mostly futilely) for people's attention, Goldhaber reasons, attention is one of the Internet's great scarcities.

It's Economics 101: "When a scarcity is created, that which is in scarce supply tends to increase in value," says Goldhaber, who made a pretty penny selling his networking company, Tops, to Sun Microsystems and later served as chief executive of the ill-fated Apple/IBM venture Kaleida. Advertising superstar Jay Chiat and technology marketing guru Regis McKenna are on CyberGold's board of directors. The model goes something like this: You visit CyberGold at http://www.cybergold.net and answer some questions about yourself. Then you read an ad--all the ads will be interactive. If you stop in the middle, you won't get paid. But if you read till the end, you will be presented with a piece of "cybergold," which will go into your account.

That currency can be applied to a variety of online services, such as a subscription to an online journal, or to your monthly Internet bill. CyberGold gets a commission, the advertiser knows you've read the ad, and you get paid for your compliance with consumerism gone digital--er, that is, for your attention.

CyberGold hasn't announced any of the advertisers who will participate--though Goldhaber hints that Intel Corp. is one--or the services for which its currency can be bartered. The site will not be operational until the end of August.

amy.harmon@latimes.com

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