Netscape General Manager Jason Calacanis put out the call for paid users on his blog earlier this week. "I have an offer to the top 50 users on any of the major social news/bookmarking sites," he wrote. "We will pay you $1,000 a month for your 'social bookmarking' rights. Put in at least 150 stories a month and we'll give you $12,000 a year."
The move to lure users from other sites comes three weeks into Netscape.com's transformation from a professionally programmed portal to a social news site that features news articles and blog posts that have been submitted by users. The initial period has been rocky for Netscape; since the new site launched June 29, some users of the old Netscape.com portal have posted comments criticizing the new site and petitioning AOL to restore the former page.
Given the public complaints about the new site, the move to recruit users is viewed by some as a sign that AOL is losing patience with the initiative. "It screams desperation for Netscape after a very short time," said Steve Rubel, a marketing strategist and senior vice president with Edelman.
AOL spokesman Andrew Weinstein said that the company doesn't think the protesters' complaints reflect a widespread user backlash. "The percentage of people who have concerns about it, measured against an overall audience of more than 9 million, is very small." (Netscape.com last month drew approximately 9.7 million visitors, according to Nielsen//NetRatings.)