RealTime IT News

Get Paid to Read E-Mail -- Really

Marketing messages that litter e-mail inboxes don't have to make you angry. They can pay you. That's the concept behind anti-spam startup Boxbe, with its free service for Microsoft Outlook, Yahoo Mail and Google Gmail users.

The Boxbe service integrates with e-mail solutions and provides users with a dashboard that lets them decide if they want to be contacted by marketers and at what price.

Thede Loder, co-founder and president of Boxbe, said no one is going to get rich using the service. Instead, it's aimed at making e-mail marketing less odious for both marketers and recipients.

"One of the things we see is that if consumers and marketers want to connect, and the information is relevant, then most people are okay with being contacted," he told InternetNews.com. "We enable members to decide circumstances."

The service allows users to set a fixed threshold price or enables Boxbe to automatically manage the price charged to marketers. Boxbe keeps a cut, and a bulk of it goes to users who also have the choice of refunding the payment, which is useful for charitable and non-profit organizations.

As opposed to Gmail, which provides Google AdSense ads based on e-mail context, Boxbe's marketers will use the user's profile to determine which messages are sent. Loder said users choose how much of their profile can be shared with marketers.

Boxbe's focus is more than simply getting paid to read e-mail. It attempts to reduce spam by only allowing messages into an Outlook, Yahoo Mail or Gmail account from authorized senders. It's an evolution of the marketing-by-invitation idea that others in the e-mail industry have tried at various points during the last decade.

Loder said the Boxbe approach is different, because it relies on a user's existing inbox and contact list to build an authorized recipient list. Messages that come from unrecognized senders are held in quarantine until the user decides to authorize or delete the message.

Loder also said Boxbe has been working closely with Yahoo to make the service work as seamlessly as possible.

In the case of Gmail, Boxbe's approach is a bit more roundabout. Loder explained that mail comes into Gmail and is then forwarded to Boxbe's servers, where the users' policies are applied. The mail is then sent back to the user at Gmail.

Loder said he had dismissed concerns by his company's potential investors whether Yahoo, Microsoft or Google could outmaneuver Boxbe and produce their own permission-based e-mail services.

"We simply need to produce a better product, faster," Loder said. "Google, Yahoo and Microsoft all run hundreds of projects, so they can take a wait-and-see approach and then move."

That move also could include acquiring Boxbe. While Loder did not deny that being bought out is a potential exit strategy for his firm, his plans for now are to go it alone.

"We do plan on working with them all, and we don't want to have an allegiance to anyone in particular," Loder said. "We want this to be something everyone can use, and it will help if it's not something that a proprietary group grabs and keeps."