Billionaire in Waiting

I have a cunning plan.

Last week, I ranted a bit about the growing volume of opt-in email that clogs my inbox.

Nothing I’ve ever opted into seems to have an expiry or “best before” date, so the volume keeps building. And some strange inertia prevents me from taking the often simple steps required to unsubscribe.

Judging by the volume of email I received in response to that article, I’m not alone.

So it’s time for the email marketplace to welcome a whole new breed of email management program.

Let me be one of the first, with the introduction of my imaginary new service – available through the mythical emailYouNeed.com.

Here’s the plan.

Sign up for the emailYouNeed service, and it will list and manage all your opt-in email subscriptions. (And no, I haven’t figured out the details of how to execute this.)

As part of the sign-up, you’ll set your own preferences, then put emailYouNeed to work on your inbox.

What emailYouNeed will do is track actual activity within your email inbox. It will observe which emails you read, at what time and for how long. It will take note of those that you delete or leave unread.

After a while, at say the fifth consecutive time you’ve deleted a particular newsletter unread, a box will pop up and ask, “Would you like to be unsubscribed from this list? Yes or no.”

One click does it. Automatic unsubscription management. Is that a great idea or what? Plus you’ll get full reporting functions showing you how much time you spend on which publications, listing your subscribes and unsubscribes, etc.

It’s cool. Best of all, it’s free.

Why free? Because once I’ve got my grubby little hands on your behavior within your own inbox, I’m a billionaire in waiting. Without too long to wait.

Don’t get me wrong. My privacy position will be whiter than white.

But I don’t have to invade your privacy to profit from the extraordinary depth of customer behavior I’ll glean from the aggregated activity of ten thousand clients.

(Well, that’s not quite true. With your permission, I’ll invade your privacy to quite an alarming degree. I just won’t share what I learn with anyone else.)

Maybe Amazon.com might want to know what proportion of emails within a particular campaign are opened within an hour of being received.

Perhaps the e-tailers that spend big bucks advertising through the growing number of online incentive programs might want to know how many of their messages are actually opened.

And as the huge valuations of so many companies are built on the size of their “opt-in customer base,” investors might want to know what proportion of that “base” is actually active.

And there’s more!

I’ll also make big bucks offering you, the user, my super-targeted recommendation service.

By looking at what you actually read and the stuff you throw away, I’ll get a laser-like fix on your specific preferences. So I’ll offer you, as an opt-in service, the option to receive occasional new subscription recommendations. (We’ll keep you at a manageable level. Once we’ve dumped some of your dormant subscriptions, we’ll recommend you try some more appropriate ones.)

Naturally, based on our knowledge of your actual reading behavior, I’d anticipate a high level of satisfaction with those recommendations. So I’ll charge publishers a fat fee for making the introductions.

It just gets better and better.

Hey, I could probably start making some book and CD recommendations, too.

Happy inboxes. Happy clients. Happy me.

So how come I’m not rushing to the nearest VC group to finance this? Well, if I’m thinking of it now, you can be sure that a few hundred other people have thought of it before, and that five of them are already funded.

I guess.

Or maybe I am the first?

Oops.

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