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E-mail ad-ons: 'It's not spam'

June 25, 2001 

The marketing company behind technology that allows ISPs to intercept e-mails and wrap them in advertisements has defended its initiative, following a backlash from Internet users.

ZDNet Australia reported Friday that Reva Networks was promoting new e-mail technology that enables ISPs to wrap mail with ads before sending it on to the recipient--a concept that sparked a barrage of criticism from users already fed up with being bombarded with spam.

"The minute my ISP tries this I will no longer be their customer," one Internet user said. "There is so much advertising on the Net it's a joke. I am insulted to think that ISPs would make money out a service that is already making them money,"

"The day my ISP puts spam inside my e-mail is the day I find a new ISP," another user said, with others saying the concept is nothing more than a "hideous money-grabbing attempt at invading our privacy".

Reva Networks CEO Robert Pickup, however, says that "Admail" isn't spam and is simply a way for service providers to generate additional revenue streams in a competitive environment that's forcing them to cut costs.

"It's really incorrect to associate it [Admail] with spam," Pickup said. "This is not unsolicited e-mail."

The Coalition Against Unsolicited Bulk Email agrees: "It's not spam because it's not violating property rights," the coalition's Troy Rollo told ZDNet Australia.

"The e-mail at this point is the joint property of the ISP and the user," he explained "Because the ISP retains property rights...they have the right to send whatever they like to us."

And whilst Rollo believes that the use of Admail may cause ISPs to lose customers, "it does have the potential to take off," he admitted.

It's a wrap

Admail will be sent with advertisements wrapped the around e-mail--down the right hand side and over the top of the message -- and as ISPs have demographic information on all their subscribers, those ads can be tailored to suit individual profiles.

"If the ad is relevant to the user--and if the user was getting some kind of return such as a discount on fees--then there's the potential for it [Admail] to take off," Rollo said.

Reva claims that the competitive nature of the ISP arena is already forcing many to reduce pricing plans--the use of Admail simply provides them with a means to subsidise costs with advertising revenue.

Pickup said he found readers' angry responses to Admail "quite overwhelming" considering there'd been no negative feedback to a trial.

However, he concedes many may not have read the terms and conditions and realised Admail was to be included within another service, where e-mails were diverted from mobile phones to mail boxes.

Pickup says he envisages ISPs could offer users a discounted subscription plan in return for Admail or alternatively, could promote it as an "opt-out" service.

Admail may hit in-boxes within a month.

By Rachel Lebihan, ZDNet Australia, Copyright © 2001 ZD Inc.

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