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For those who don't know, the idea of "Sender Pays" is to make the cost of sending an email slightly higher than zero for bulk emails -- some say for everyone. Say a penny a message or less. AOL and YAHOO are talking about using this method for public bulk mailing lists. While neither is saying they'd charge users directly, the idea is that if bulk mail comes it without paying it would be treated with a higher degree of suspicion.
Along comes this article about reputed "spam king" Adam Vitale being busted by the Secret Service. Allegedly, Vitale charged an undercover agent $6,500 for equipment then sent spam out to as many as 1.5 million people in return for an agreed price of at least $40,000 off the top of the first revenue generated plus 50% of all proceeds. Do the math, at that price the going rate for sending the messages already well exceeds 2.5 cents per message -- plus the threat of jail time.
At a rate of 2.5 cents per message, sleazy sales pitches for porn, pills, and promises are still extremely profitable. The techniques of spam are so effective in fact, that now many of those products have "upscaled" and we're seeing the same products and scams advertised on radio, direct mail, and late night television. If THAT's true, its a hell of a lot more profitable than 5 cents, or even 25 cents per message is likely to stop. Unless you believe consumers are willing to voluntarily make email cost more than that, you can only conclude that "Sender Pays" is a nonstarter.
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