Start-up Affini is beta testing a program to let marketers send email to members who describe their interests and agree to receive targeted messages.
Affini, led by former InfoSeek CTO William Chang, provides consumers a free email service, which blocks spam by only allowing email from senders that have been previously approved by the user. Users are given a public affini.net email address, which is filtered by Affini based on the user’s approved senders list. Only messages sent from approved senders are forwarded to a user’s email account. The consumer service launched in beta in October.
Now the company is offering advertisers a chance to reach Affini users whose interests match the advertiser’s target audience, if users agree to receive email marketing messages. The program, which is now in beta, is expected to fully launch within the next three months.
“Every two years or so, advertisers turn to a new model. With search facing a supply-demand imbalance today, I believe the next channel will be highly targeted opt-in email,” said Chang, now Affini’s CEO.
Users will be rewarded with points to provide details about their interests, and then to name the minimum amount of reward points they will require to accept promotional email that matches their interests from Affini advertisers. Users who open the advertisers’ emails will receive a corresponding number of points in their Affini accounts, which can later be cashed in once a certain level is reached. Users will also rate each message for relevance to their interests, so each user’s advertiser profile will be refined over time.
Advertisers will be able to search for Affini users to target with their messages based on interests, location, and other criteria. The advertiser will also specify how much it is willing to pay for each email. The advertiser will then be presented with the number of users that match their search, and the number willing to accept email for the amount the advertiser bid.
Advertisers will be screened by Affini before being allowed to send messages to members. The advertisers will never have access to the users’ personally identifiable information (PII), they will only know how many Affini users match the campaign’s criteria. The reporting tools will show performance metrics for an ad based on each given criteria.
Affini signs up users through its own site, and through partnerships with existing online communities and social networks. Chang said the company currently has 100,000 beta users from an undisclosed social network, and several hundred users who have signed up through the Affini site.
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