Crazy or Cool? Charging People to Send You Emails

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How full is your email inbox?

Like a lot of bloggers, I’m overwhelmed with email. I have something in the neighborhood of 8,000 unread emails. Not that I don’t try, but every day, literally hundreds come in. I wish they were notes from friends, loved ones, and people offering work, but the sad truth is, a majority of the emails that come in are about what Jennifer Lawrence wore to the Oscars, or pitches even more random than that.

My first response was, “Woah, that’s really crazy, those people have balls to try to charge for EMAIL!” Then, it settled into, “Oh wait, that could also mean less spam and random emails.”

Over the weekend, Slate asked, “Is it crazy to charge for emails?” My first response was, “Woah, that’s really crazy, those people have balls to try to charge for EMAIL!” Then, it settled into, “Oh wait, that could also mean less spam and random emails.” Then I thought of the hosting and storage email costs (after maxing out Gmail’s free service), the hours responding to emails, and of course reminiscing the emails lost in the mix. Some have rumored to hire assistants both real and virtual to monitor and respond to email, also costing money to manage.

Charging to send emails is not a new concept,  in 2006 AOL and Yahoo tested charging business to send email in order to avoid spam filters. It failed back then because users said it was like charging for “air to breathe.” Times might have changed, but in December of 2012, Facebook started testing charging $1 for messages sent to non-“Friends” a test that also came under a lot of criticism from it’s users.  A month later, Marc Zuckerberg started charging $100 for messages to bypass his “Other” mailbox on Facebook. Some websites joked he probably wouldn’t even read those messages either. LinkedIn has been charging its users up to $75 per month for 25 “InMail” messages to users out of network for years, and recruiters gladly pay the sum as it’s part of their business strategy.

Charging to send emails is not a new concept,  in 2006 AOL and Yahoo tested charging business to send email in order to avoid spam filters. It failed back then because users said it was like charging for “air to breathe.

With AOL, Yahoo, and Facebook the payment goes to the email host, or the service, which could have been a great way to monetize if the users didn’t freak out. But what if they did some kind of rev-share with the users? Users could set their prices based on what level of access email senders wanted, and the email host could take a cut, and the users wouldn’t feel left out of this monetization  strategy. Then perhaps people would want to receive email.

After all, charging for access is nothing new. It costs money to send a letter, even if the Post Office is having severe financial problems. It takes time and investment to curate relationships that get opened and answered emails (which could possibly be translated to dollars). We all pay in one way or another, so for those who want to skip the formalities, would it not be unreasonable to ask them to pay for it? Maybe it would make people put more time into the emails they send, therefore everyone’s time spent sending and reading emails more worth it.

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9 Responses

  1. Profile photo of Chloe
    Chloe

    Bloggers are so popular with brands because they have loyal followers, their readers trust their opinions, they’re usually honest and, let’s face it, when not free, the coverage brands get from bloggers is a hell of a lot cheaper than approaching the big guys (TV ads, big fashion publications, billboards etc).
    I wouldn’t feel comfortable asking people to pay to email me, especially when I may not always respond to or want to work with said person.
    The only scenarios where my time and finances may be spent through contact are ones when I’m working with somebody I want to work with.
    Also, why narrow your ‘market’ by being less approachable?

    Reply
  2. Profile photo of WorkOfStyle
    WorkOfStyle

    For enormous businesses, it could make sense but I don’t feel like you could ask this when you’re a blogger, even a big and popular one. Maybe one day so many people will start doing it that it will be acceptable for bloggers too but now I just feel like it would damage your image. People would think you’re just in for the money – you could do it but have to be very careful on how to handle things, i guess!

    Reply
  3. Profile photo of Nnena
    Nnena

    It would probably cut down the spam, but I’m not sure I’d use email any longer if I had to pay for it. I mean, wasn’t that the whole point of emailing, quick and free?

    Reply
  4. Profile photo of
    THE2NDAVENUE

    Sorry, but charging for email is absolutely rude.
    Like Nnena said .. emailing is supposed to be quick and free unlike the old school mail where u have to pay for the stamp and wait for days or weeks until it arrives. That would be kind of a technological downgrade.
    When you have a blog or a company or whatever else you’ve to expect to get spam mail. Charging for email just to stop spam is a poor reason in my opinion. There are so many IT experts outta here, I’m sure that there’s a better solution for this problem.

    THE2NDAVENUE.blogspot.com

    Reply
  5. Hugh

    What if all the revenue went to charity? It would no longer be considered ‘rude’ or ‘unfair’, but it would still yield the benefit of meaning that when someone sends you an email they are doing it for a valid reason.

    Reply

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