The Madison Courier has launched "The MarketPlace," a free online business directory highlighting local businesses.

It can be found at www.MadisonCourier.com/MarketPlace.

"The Madison Courier has always promoted shopping locally. We are excited to add this new feature to MadisonCourier.com and give our local retailers a chance to have an online presence," said Robin Cull, New Media/Marketing Director of The Madison Courier.

"The MarketPlace has allowed us to add hundreds of local businesses names, addresses and phone numbers to this searchable directory at no cost to the business, and it gives the business a chance to "claim their business" by adding everything from a short description and their hours free of charge to upgrading to a full-blown Web site complete with pictures, promotions and e-commerce," Cull said.

When putting The MarketPlace together all businesses in the current databases were uploaded with the most basic information available - business name, address and phone number. Business owners are encouraged to check out the listing to make sure all information is correct and "claim their business" which allows them to add business hours and identifying tags and activate the map to their business or upgrade to one of our many packages available if desired. A new business can easily start its own account by visiting www.MadisonCourier.com/MarketPlace.

Along with the free basic service, packages available are:

• The Silver Package which includes a business profile, four-picture photo gallery, bold listings as well as placement in the "popular businesses" section on the site.

• The Gold Package which includes all the features of the silver package plus a larger photo gallery, the ability to link to other Web sites, the ability to upload files, such as a menu to the site, coupons with graphics, testimonials, a unique URL and business logo and placement in the "featured businesses" section on the site.

• The Platinum Package which includes all of the above plus adds the e-commerce component which allows the business to sell merchandise online with a minimum of setup.

Upgrade packages range from $29.99 to $99.00 a month with greater savings available for year-long contracts.

Madison Courier advertising consultants are available to help businesses get started with this new enterprise as well as go over pricing of any upgrades they may be interested in. During this introductory period The Madison Courier is offering a 50 percent discount on upgrade setup fees until Dec. 31.