geert lovink on Mon, 25 Jun 2001 15:33:23 +0200 (CEST)

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[Nettime-bold] something for nettime?

Email interruptus
By Andrew Colley, ZDNet Australia
22 June 2001,2000020814,20233949,00.htm

Internet users may soon have to contend with a new form of spam that turns
their private email correspondence into a billboard for online

Melbourne-based online marketing company, Reva Networks, is currently
promoting a new email technology -- Admail -- that allows online
advertisers to intercept email messages as they enter the mail server and
"wrap" them in advertising content tailored to the recipient's demographic

Unlike conventional unsoliciated email, where advertising arrives in the
users' inbox as separate email, Admail fuses advertising with the body
message regardless of its origin.

Robert Pickup, Revo Networks CEO, says the company's partners and customers
include both conventional ISP-based POP email services and free Web-based
email services that generate revenue through advertising. "We're in
discussions with many ISPs and advertisers, he said. "It's fair to say that
interest has been very strong."

Pickup says that Admail has proven itself to be more effective than other
forms of online advertising.

"Because the advertising is embedded within a regular email and not a
separate email message from an advertiser, users are more likely to open
the message and hence be exposed to the advertising offer," he said.

Even though the advertising content may hitch a ride with mail traffic
generated by paying subscribers they're not assured of having the choice to
filter the additional content. "That is up to the ISP or the partner but an
opt-out function is likely to be provided in that case," said Pickup.

David Bather, Public Relations manager for Ozemail, warns that online
marketers need to be highly circumspect about the privacy concerns of the
consumer with email-based strategies. Reflecting on the ISP's experience in
the field he said, "we've always been very aware of the rights of the
consumer. Something like this would have to be scrutinised very carefully.
I think it's important to give consumers an opt-out function"

Charles Britton, IT policy officer for the Australian Consumer Association,
is critical of any electronic advertising that places consumers in a
reactive position. "We'd rather see an opt-in than an opt-out" he said,
speaking on behalf of the association.

Pickup doesn't believe that consumer ire will hinder the success of the
technology. According to the company's research, consumers aren't angered
by email advertising "as long as its relevant to them". Referring to
results of early trials of the technology, which did not provoke any
feedback from email users, he said "it's obviously not upsetting people in
any way".

Britton doesn't believe that consumers will passively accept the new form
of online advertising. "Without some incentive why would you want
advertising in your email?" he said.

Observing the negative reception that spam receives from the Internet
community, Britton believes that advertisers may ultimately decide the fate
of the technology. "Advertisers are reluctant to be associated with
anything that irritates consumers," he said. "There's not many successful
business models based on annoying people."

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