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Email Postage A Fantastic Idea

Posted at Salon in response to this article.

Anyone who objects to email postage is a freeloader. These whining bastards are used to getting YOU, THE USER to pay for THEIR unwanted marketing messages. AOL’s plan is fantastic news. I would pay double for such an account. The so-called "free" email system is only free for people whose time is worth nothing. My wasted time weeding through spam costs at least 20 times what I pay every month for my email account ($5.95). A functional email system would be worth 1,000 times the cost of the postage–in terms of its value to the business world. Imagine the value of knowing for sure that your message gets through every time to your customer. Priceless.

The objections to email postage reminds me of the hue and cry from the telemarketers when the do-not-call list was proposed. They painted horrific pictures of millions of out-of-work telemarketers. What we got was much quieter phones, and the ability to eat dinner in peace. I haven’t heard a peep from the out-of-work telemarketers. Presumably they found more creative jobs and now have better lives as well. There was no blip in the unemployment rate. The only losers were the assholes who ran the telemarketing sweatshops.

Likewise, we should be focusing on the spammers who have hijacked the free email system. It’s tempting to think of them as evil, but they are just exploiting a loophole, and we’ve allowed it. They are expertly using a collectively owned infrastructure against those who pay for it.

It’s time we, the ratepayers, revolted. Just as a telemarketer uses my paid phone line against me, so every spammer uses my paid email account against me, AOL or otherwise. Email postage would make it easier to know when someone cares enough about me to spend 1/4 cent to certify their message. What they would be buying with their postage is my respect.

Ironically, the activist organizations in the article are missing the point. Because, like the telemarketers and the spammers, they’ve been getting a free ride. Yes, their messages have social value. But that doesn’t make it any more ethical that they are using other people’s money to pay for their delivery. My parents ran a non-profit organization when I was growing up. Postage was always a huge issue, even at bulk rates. But they paid it, and their organization grew. If non-profits want to take their chances with the spam-filters, they can still get in line for "free" email with everyone else.

If I was running a non-profit now, I’d look at this as a bargain and an opportunity. It’s a lot cheaper than conventional mail. Email postage would force non-profits to do their homework, and hit their demographic in a more focused way. It would also force a shift to "permission-based" marketing–which is where it’s all headed anyway.

A thought experiment: Imagine what it would be like if postal mail were free for senders. None of us would be able to get in our front doors, we’d need trucks to haul away the junk mail, and there wouldn’t be a forest left standing on the planet.

The only way to solve the spam problem is to shift the costs of email from the receiver to the sender–just like with regular postage.


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