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Guidescope Launches Free Ad Blocking Service

Yet another service is expected to launch today for consumers who want to block advertising when they surf the Net.

Dubbed Guidescope.com, the company was founded on the premise that the current advertising model on the Web is unworkable.

“Click rates are below a half percent, and clearly there’s something wrong,” said Thomas Matheson, president of Guidescope, Mendham, NJ. “And not only is it not working, it’s motivating advertisers to get more invasive into people’s privacy as they try harder and harder to target their ads.”

Under Guidescope’s business model, Internet users download a small piece of ad blocking software that accompanies their browsers as they surf the Web. Guidescope also allows its users to set blanket preferences as to the types of cookies — or tracking technology — their computers will accept. As a result, advertisers cannot build profiles of Guidescope users’ clickstream behavior. Profiling for ad targeting purposes has long raised privacy advocates’ hackles.

However, Matheson insists his firm is not anti-advertising.

“Advertising is good if it provides information and offers bargains,” he said. “They’re only annoying when they’re not wanted.”

As part of the registration process, Guidescope offers its users the opportunity to opt in to receive ads in some 150 categories. To view their ads, users must go to a special Internet mailbox the company sets up for them.

The aim is to create an opt-in database of people similar to e-mail databases from NetCreations and YesMail. Guidescope plans to charge marketers on a cost-per- thousand-impressions basis to deliver ads to its users’ mailboxes.

“My goal is to create a gated community of users who have opted out of mass advertising on the Internet and who have opted in to ads they want,” Matheson said.

Also according to Matheson, Guidescope is the irritated Internet user’s answer to marketers’ seemingly insatiable appetite for bandwidth.

He claims Guidescope’s tests have shown that blocking ads and cookies speeds Internet surfing by 50 percent to 400 percent.

And while Guidescope is free to consumers, Matheson plans to sell his product to companies looking to raise productivity by blocking ads from employees’ screens. The cost to businesses will be $10 per employee. “If we can save a company a half hour of productivity a year [per employee], we’ve paid for ourselves.”

Matheson also claims his service blocks ads similar products miss. Current ad blocking technology is best for filtering ads from well-known servers such as those operated by DoubleClick and 24/7 Media, according to Matheson, while ads from smaller sites still slip through because current technology doesn’t recognize small sites’ servers as sources to be blocked. Guidescope, he said, allows users to flag ads from sites that serve their own ads, which then are added to a central database of unwanted ads and consequently blocked from all other Guidscope users’ computers.

To get the word out, Guidescope is relying on publicity and word of mouth. Privacy advocate Jason Catlett, president of Junkbusters Inc., Green Brook, NJ, has reportedly agreed to put a link to Guidescope on Junkbusters.com. Junkbusters makes a similar free downloadable piece of ad blocking software, but Matheson claims his is easier for consumers to manage. Catlett could not be reached for comment.

Matheson said he’s also struck a deal with e-mail list development and management firm NetCreations, New York, to pitch his service to marketers.

The company is privately funded. Matheson declined to say by whom.

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