ELECTRONIC LISTS: Getting e-permission

E-mail co-ops demand opt-in proof

Just as the launch of cooperative databases such as the Abacus Alliance in the mid-’90s resulted in catalog shoppers receiving more offers, the e-mail co-op databases now cropping up mean more e-mail for online users. But unlike print co-ops, the e-mail co-ops say all their customers have opted in to receive offers.

In December, when Boca Raton, FL-based Worldata launched its e-mail co-op, WorldataExchange.com, vice president Jay Schwedelson rejected mailers’ existing names because many didn’t fit the list firm’s definition of opt in. Worldata insists that participants recruit consumers to sign up through their Websites. “When new members opt in, we e-mail them before adding them to the co-op, saying, `You opted in to this database to receive e-mail marketing.’ This gives them the opportunity to opt out,” he says.

Those who don’t opt out are added to the database, and the site that recruited them is credited with adding a member to the co-op. For each member recruited, marketers may extract two new names from the database for their e-mail marketing efforts. Participating marketers may also buy additional names from the co-op, which has about 275 companies yielding a pool of approximately 150,000 names, Schwedelson says.

New York-based NetCreations has an even more elaborate policy for adding members to its e-mail co-op, the Opt-In Alliance. Consumers who opt in to receive e-mail information from co-op partners receive an activation code by e-mail. The sign-up mechanism then prompts new members to enter their activation code onto another Web page before they are added to the co-op list.

“In the postal world, no one’s surprised to receive more apparel catalogs after buying from one,” says NetCreations president Rosalind Resnick. “But when consumers sign up at one site and receive e-mails from 10 others sites, they feel their privacy has been violated.”

Introduced last December, the co-op boasts more than 6 million names collected from marketers such as apparel mailer J. Crew. Currently only clients of NetCreations’ e-mail list management service, PostMasterDirect.com, can participate in the co-op, but within the next six months the co-op will be available to outside marketers.

Vernon Hills, IL-based Yesmail has been using a system similar to NetCreations’ to grow its co-op membership to 6.5 million consumers in a year. When members sign up at participating marketers’ sites, the co-op sends them e-mail, and recipients must reply to confirm their interest. Spokesman Jim Carini says that Yesmail signs on 40,000 new members a day. Any marketer can rent the e-mail co-op’s names for an average rate of $250/M, with participating sites splitting 50% of the rental revenue.

Not to be outdone, New York-based DoubleClick (owner of the Abacus Alliance) is launching Abacus Online, an opt-in online-co-op, or “a consortium database replicating the Abacus Alliance model” says Eli Chalfin, vice president/general manager of DoubleClick’s DARTmail division. Chalfin says the system is just getting off the ground and should be available to marketers some time in the second quarter of 2000.

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