January 7, 2003

in COMsumers, Digital Post, Spam

Do we want spammers to think before sending? Would there be value in incorporating a postage system for e-mail? What opportunities for commerce may arise? What are the benefits for the people?

Suspend your disbelief! Let’s imagine a simple scenario where all electronic mail carries a postage stamp equivalent. We would have a rate card… A personal, home, business and government package would be provided. And then levels. Let’s just introduce it first for it can begin simply.

Like Paypal provided a verification system for linking e-mails with physical names and addresses, the same can be done for our digital mail box. A PayPal POST type system would enable “franked” mail only to go though. Franking can be determined by the rate card and other features, like contact list updates.

By setting a fee for a “registered” mailbox…. direct mailers, billers etc can quickly move expensive inefficient mailing to more effective online formats. It works virally. Imagine I open an e-mail box for everyone in the whitepages and enable direct marketers to send mail to these accounts. They will pay me a portion of the fee for mail handling (just like Visa) and the balance of the fee will be handled like an unclaimed PayPal account. When the unclaimed digital post value reaches $10.00 then a traditional physical postcard is electronically printed and sent to the physical address. It says… you have digital post, sign your account and collect $10.00. The recipient then opens the account and receives payment for each “letter” opened. This is now an active account. Legal obligations can be contracted, eg collection daily or levels of frequency.

This would be made rapidly smarter with different levels of profile access. In the beginning 25 cents may almost represent a drop box. However, additional levels will use mail profiles to create additional value. Eg accept mail from Sears, Wallmart, Target…. rejects from Nordstroms, Macy’s etc. may enable another retailer to more appropriately search paying a higher value to obtain a more targeted distribution. This might pay the consumer a dollar for looking! I can see agents emerging manipulating this info trying to find markets. Now consumers may also be prepared to sell additional profile information. Eg age, favorite brands, plenty of possibilities, these could be bundled as well. A few simply research questions would create a system vastly more sophisticated than the current one quickly. The more partiticipation the greater the definitions and the larger the market for segmenting data. I might even tie it to my TIVO account!

In a world like this…. a few consumers may enable / invent new directional mailbox tags. Each tag can be approved just like each new Visa Bank…. Each tag will get a percentage of the revenue. Tag holders will also work to bundle their assets. By bundling they will make certain “info nodes” more valuable. These might become super agencies.

Senders will know where and to whom mail was delivered. They will with each drop improve targeting and performance. For example when mail is opened… if it recieves a click though additional postage may be due (a return receipt posted).

COMsumer Post participants can speed their participation by collecting money for changing their bills over to electronic systems. AT&T would love me to give up my paper bill — but I refuse, an electronic or e-mail bill does not result in a discount. Imagine…. the screen option to select all your bill providers… and collect the postage from the invoicing companies. PG&E doesn’t bill another company does it. Imagine millions of customers saying…. redirect my bills electronically…. the reduction in paper waste, the legal transfer simplified, and then being paid for putting efficiencies into the system. I’m green and better off!

This will create new efficiencies and are the first steps to creating market aggregators. Super agents for consuming communities. There was much written on meta-markets over the last few years. In this scenario they can become reality. Using your post box to register guarantees etc can link you to other consumers. Only one consumer needs to code a guarantee for each product for everyone to participate. See the CD song id. Similarly consumer complaints can be handled by this mail system. I wrote anti-port some time ago.

What are the core concepts here.

The majority of postage is payed to consumers. There is an incentive to enable certain levels of public information. It is built off of current mail and profiling systems. We work first to eliminate waste paper of direct mail.

It will create a more efficient postal system, which no longer penalizes the receiver with spam, for the sender will now pay for access, just like our current postal system. By definition corporate mail boxes will be different to personal mail boxes. Rates and exchanges for business post may also be different. Licensing opportunities are also available. Eg post approved for children.

By moving all post into digital space, we have made post mobile, so new options will become available. Eg paying for gps link and timed delivery to a consumer. If the consumer doesn’t collect it within an allotted time then it is simply void and disappears. Under the right set of circumstances… informercials might take on a different pricing structure. Ah…new learning on the run.

There is also an important social issue here. By enabling the payment for post, we are endeavoring to make Internet access free for everyone. Not everyone may move over. Still if we are smart enough to create a social – community – postal system that incents business and pays enough to cover the costs of access and equipment then we have done good. It may be easier than we think. WiFi PDAs may just collect your mail as you walk around.

Lastly this is not a posting that suggests we should raise the rates between friends. In fact there are many ways round that. Though even at the simplest level if I mail you 25 cents and you mail me back… except for the “VISA” percentage we are even. So to make it better… You can join… become a COMsumer for $35 per year we will enable you to exchange mail freely with your friends and close contacts.

Who could set this up? It’s a mighty attactive proposition for some banks. PayPal may have a head start. Then again hotmail, or yahoo, AOL (help us!) or Earthlink? Quicken maybe? Banks are closet to providing the trust and security over data. They are important to the linking aspects and perhaps more so when we begin aggregating this info to enhance consumer purchasing power.

Ultimately, this is more like Visa. It is chaordic in nature. It must also be consumer owned. Afterall it is our consumer info we are talking about. The majority of the assets our personal info at the edge of the Network. Just like in David Isenbergs’s Stupid Networks. We are close to the point where consumer can have a STUPID POST OFFICE. I’d like to think it was more open source… a postal bazaar, than a new cathedral.

Idea? Thoughts?

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