Mar 262001

The Bottom Line A (hopefully) opinion-free look at what exactly ‘Pay To’ programs are. For my opinions, see my advice in Explaining Online Paid To Programs.

Advertising is everywhere on the internet. Now companies are willing to pay you to invite even more advertising on to your monitor in one way or another.

‘Pay To’ Basics

Pay To sites are essentially specialized advertising companies that pass on a part of their revenue (not their profits as so many disingenuously claim) to you in order to view the ads/visit the sites of their clients. These companies get paid by various websites to have their advertising banners or messages passed on to people that fit certain demographics. Additionally, users are encouraged to gain referrals (people who join the program after hearing about it from them) for which they also receive a portion of their referrals revenue.

The ‘Pay To’ concept apparently began with Pay To Surf programs (AllAdvantage [now defunct] is generally accepted as the first of these companies) and has since expanded into Pay To View, Pay To Read Email, Pay To Send Email, Pay To Instant Message, Pay To Listen, Pay To Click, Pay To Join, Pay To Search, Paid Surveys, Pay To Write/Review, and now, Pay To Bookmark.

While affiliate programs (where webmasters are paid to provide advertising space on their websites) are often mixed in with PTS programs, they are truly a separate beast and should be examined separately.

Pay To Surf (PTS):

PTS programs require that you dedicate a portion of your monitor’s space to their AdBar (or SurfBar). These bars generally display the PTS company logo and one (or more) banner or button ads. These ads are rotated every 30-120 seconds depending on the program and how many advertisers they have. Some also include such ‘features’ as realtime statistic updates, streaming headlines, streaming audio, or anything else the PTS companies can think up to entice new and dedicated users.

Most AdBars are small programs that must be downloaded and installed on your computer, though several companies now offer server-side AdBars that are accessed via the PTS company’s website and open a small window on your computer.

AdBars can be “docked” – locked in a specific place (usually either the top or bottom) on your monitor – or “floating” – similar to a minimized window that can be moved wherever you like on your screen, including behind other windows.

All that is required of you is to run their program and let the ads take up space on your screen while you surf the ‘net.

Each company has different methods of confirming that you haven’t simply started the program and walked off or gone to sleep however. These range from requiring mouse movement or page changes every so often (as frequently as every 30 seconds) to requiring that you click a button every 15-20 minutes to requiring that you enter a code displayed in the banner ad space when prompted.

Pay To View (PTV):

These programs are the closest thing to PTS programs. The only difference here is that you are only required to have an active internet connection (so that the bar can contact the company’s server for new ads), not to actively surf the internet. You can use PTV programs while writing email or correspondence, doing taxes, working on graphic design, or even watching a DVD movie on your computer.

You still must click the required area or respond o the occasional prompt to ensure you’re paying at least some attention.

Pay To Read Email (PTREM):

While the business model of these companies is similar to PTS programs (in fact many PTS companies offer PTREM as well) the delivery method is very different.

When you sign up with a PTREM company you generally select a number of categories that interest you. When the PTREM company has an advertiser in a category you selected an email is sent to you with the advertiser’s message and/or banner ad. You must click on the link in the email to confirm that you have read the message/visited the site.

How much email will you receive? That depends on the company you sign up with and the categories you’ve selected.

Pay To Send Email (PTSEM):

These companies are essentially web-based email programs (like hotmail or yahoo mail) that share their advertising revenue with you. Hence every time you log-in, read a message, send a message, access your address book, etc, you see a banner ad (just like hotmail or yahoo mail) and the company splits a portion of the profits with you. This concept is very similar to the epinions Content Partner Site program.

Pay To Instant Message (PTIM):

These are essentially PTREM companies that operate through various Instant Messenger programs (ICQ, Yahoo Messenger, etc) or proprietary IM software.

Pay To Listen (PTL):

Closest in nature to the PTS or PTV companies, these companies have a tuner (similar to an AdBar) on which you can select a streaming audio ‘station’ to listen to while surfing the net or working on your computer. Ads are served as banners/buttons on the tuner and/or embedded in the audio stream (ala commercial radio).

Pay To Click (PTC):

Pay To Click companies require that you visit their website and click on ads placed by various companies. You get paid a portion of what the advertisers pay the PTC company to display their ads.

Pay To Join (PTJ):

Pay To Join companies are essentially more involved PTC companies. You visit the company’s website and click on the ads there. However, unlike PTC programs you must also join or sign-up for the services of the company being advertised.

Pay To Search (PTS):

Pay To Search companies are search engines that charge websites to be listed. In return for using the search engine, thus generating revenue for the company, you are paid a portion of that revenue on either a per search or per click basis.

Paid Surveys (PS):

Paid Survey companies are marketing or research companies that will pay you for taking the time to complete one or more of their surveys. They then sell the survey results to various interested parties.

Most PD companies require you to complete extensive demographic information when first joining and then contact you by email when they have a survey that requires your particular demographics.

Pay To Write/Review (PTW):

Epinions is a Pay To Review company. These companies essentially pay you (typically on a per view basis) to provide content for their sites. What you need to/can write varies from company to company. While consumer reviews seem to be the most common, there are several companies that will pay for your stories, poetry, new ideas, or rants as well.

These companies generate their revenue by selling the advertising space on their sites.

Pay To Bookmark (PTB):

Although there are numerous sites on the web that allow you to store your bookmarks with them for remote access (mybookmarks, webfavorites, BaBoo, and Blink) only one, that I know of, shares their advertising revenue with users: Peppy’s Pointe (at ). If they are successful (and they have been so far) others will surely follow.

Essentially, they let you store your bookmarks (or favorites) on the web, so that they can be accessed from any computer. Peppy’s Pointe then shares their advertising revenue with its users. Unlike most Pay To programs you get paid from a pool of revenue based on a ‘secret formula’, similar to how Income Share works here at Epinions.


That covers the majority of the current ‘Pay To’ companies on the internet. A number of companies offer more then one type of service and there are a number of hybrid companies appearing as well.

I hope this overview has been seen useful.

  One Response to “Pay To Surf=Pay To Be Advertised To”

  1. Wow!! A complete guide on the pay to surf industry and all of its variations. A great job.

 Leave a Reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>