At the beginning (way back in the 1990’s), when people began to access the World Wide Web, many services were ‘FREE’. Different industries were impacted to varying degrees. Publishers of printed materials like newspapers and magazines can tell you all kinds of stories about how it ‘used to be’ and their own response to putting their content out digitally at the same time as it was being printed and shipped. Many of those publishers didn’t make it and the ones that remain have adapted and will continue to adapt, or they will perish as well.
Most marketers know that giving away something for free and then trying to charge for it later is difficult at best. This does not include free trials since the offer is for a trial period and then there is no longer access provided unless the user pays for it. Pay walls are here to stay but consumers are still adapting to them. The advantages of digital delivery for publishers are many with the most significant being not having to produce or ship anything physical.
Electronic delivery is cheap. You know this because all day long you send and receive text messages, email and social media messages with no concern about how many you send or receive. It costs the same right? NOTHING! But imagine if you paid a small fee to send an email for instance? A penny an email? A penny doesn’t seem like much even if you send 300 emails a day that’s only $3. I truly hope that nobody reading this is sending even 100 emails per day but it’s possible. Enterprise services like Slack and Google Hangouts don’t normally have costs associated with them paid by the day-to-day users as their company covers those costs.
The United States Postal Service has been in dire straits for years. The loss of First Class Mail volume has been going on for years. That’s why the USPS is delivering packages for other companies. After all, the mailman still comes to each residence and business 6 days a week.
At one point in the past 20 years the USPS considered giving each citizen an usps.gov email address. They even had a revenue model per email. Clearly that did not go over well since you probably never even heard about it. An interesting article from Bloomberg in 2016 notes how the USPS almost became a big email provider.
So electronic delivery remains really cheap. This is great right? Well yes and no. How much more unsolicited email do you receive today than you did years ago? Even with Can-SPAM’s protocols and rules, in my opinion the email senders are way ahead of the regulators. Why not email everybody and his brother since you may pick up a few customers along the way?
And then there’s LinkedIn. Two and a half years ago I wrote a post Who are you? And no I’m not going to accept your LinkedIn invitation. Some commented that I was being overly negative. I actually thought that was fair and that my own experience might be different from others. But it’s only gotten worse. LinkedIn claims to have rules in place to curtail unsolicited offers and invitations. However there’s lots of evidence to the contrary. Every single day (including weekends) I receive offers to ‘connect’ and talk to a service provider who wants to help with ‘warm’ leads, accounting, financial and other services. The solicitors appear to have little to lose in spraying and praying that someone like me will reply and become a warm lead myself. If those solicitors had to pay for each email their behavior would change and they’d use more discretion. And wouldn’t that be grand? (they probably are paying linked in – I can’t imagine it’s free)
For those that do not know, when companies or individuals rent email lists of those they would like to reach out to, they rent the names for an agreed to amount of uses (one or more), and the provider of the email names sends the email to their chosen audience. This way the buyer does not have actual access to those names/email addresses unless someone replies to the email. You pay a fee for that which can range from $.10 per name to more than $.50 per name depending on how refined are the data sets. The more refined the more expensive. This works pretty well and marketers decide on email as a channel based on its ROI just like everything else.
When there’s low cost to send – as in the case of electronic mail and social media messages etc., discretion goes ‘out the window’ as there’s no reason to be discreet. Paint the world and hope you catch a few along the way. It’s a lousy model and we the recipients of the world feel there’s little we can do about it.
Maybe revisiting charging a sending fee should be revisited? What do you think?