Yahoodwinked, Part Deux

My last column about the changes Yahoo has made to its privacy policy and the marketing preferences of users drew quite a bit of feedback from readers. I was completely unprepared for the waterfall of comments that arrived via email. You obviously feel passionate about this topic, and I appreciate all who took the time to weigh in with their opinions — so much so that I felt it appropriate to use this week’s column to relay comments that were representative of the feedback. In your own words…

About Yahoo’s Changes

“How Does Yahoo get away with this from a legal and privacy perspective?” — Mara H.

“I’m very, very angry with Yahoo The company has significantly inconvenienced me and made my life miserable. It will be a cold day in…” — Ted W. and Daria L.

“I think that resetting users’ marketing preferences is a very cheap ploy.” — Sarah H.

“The manner in which Semel’s product managers are going about producing revenue is ‘hamfisted’ across the board.” — Anonymous

“I was also somewhat disturbed by the blatant cash grab that Yahoo just made. Given the state of the online advertising market it is understandable, if not totally forgivable.” — Ian C.

“I’m tired of pop-ups for online casinos, miniature video cameras, mortgage refinancing, and insurance I don’t need. I am tired of having to close windows I didn’t open. I’m tired of having to close windows because they started blaring sound at me. Maybe I’m the exception, but I feel like I’m more the rule.” — Lori J.

“The hooligans have already hoodwinked us once, would you trust them again with your preferences? As far as I’m concerned, they’ve blown it.” — Tom S.

Pro: Gunawardena’s Pay-for-Email Proposal

“I agree that Yahoo needs to make money. It offers a valuable service, and a flat fee of $2.00 to $5.00 per year per address is peanuts.” — Sue C.

“I have been using Yahoo for five years and, like you, became addicted to their services. I certainly agree with Gunawardena about the idea of charging $1.00 to $3.00, as long as my email is spam free” — Navneet K.

“I’d pay even more if my email provider could stem the flood of spam from the rest of the Net!” — Channing R.

“What Gunawardena is proposing is similar to what was done in Ireland. A portal run by The Irish Times offered a free email service. It had huge penetration. The company changed it to a premium service at the beginning of this year and added functionality. The cost in Ireland was 30 euros ($26.00) per year. It strikes me that it would be worth at least $3.00 just to not have to forward my filed emails to another account, notify all my friends to change my email address (don’t you hate that!), and the associated hassles. Twenty-six dollars seems high, but $5.00 per year for all the services Yahoo provides seems cheap.” — Greg K.

“I absolutely would pay a nominal fee ($1.00 to $5.00) per year for each email account I wanted, if I knew that my information would not be distributed to email marketers, telemarketers, and other such subterranean ventures.” — Howie D.

“If the major free email services went to even a nominal fee, the amount of spam generated from those services would dramatically decrease, and the remaining free services would be so overloaded with spammers that they, too, would have to begin charging. The simple act of requiring a verifiable name and phone number on an email account (to make a credit card payment) would make those accounts much less appealing to those who want to use them for spam.” — Len Feldman

Con: Gunawardena’s Pay-for-Email Proposal

“Not a chance in Hades! If I sign up for a free service, it dang well better stay that way. Period. End of discussion. Terms do not change when times are tough.” — Anonymous

“I hope Yahoo does not listen to people like you who advocate it start charging instead of changing marketing preferences. I prefer to get extra ads than to pay for the service.” — Janine C.

“It would hit the younger members of the Internet community very hard. The fee would have to be paid online, requiring a credit card. Unless parents were willing to pay using their card, the younger members would suddenly lose their means of communication. Since Yahoo Messenger depends on first establishing an email account, the younger members would lose this means of communication as well. I wonder what price Gunawardena puts on the happiness of children. I assume not a great one.” — Terry R.

“Not a bad idea, but I think Gunawardena’s projections are wildly optimistic. Of Yahoo’s 86.5 million users, are they all active? I’d bet that the number of active users (arbitrarily defining “active” to mean they log into their Yahoo Mail accounts at least once per week) is closer to a third of that. For the active group, I think Yahoo would be ecstatic with a 50 percent conversion rate for a $1.00 per year offer. Using the 50 percent conversion rate on one-third of 86.5 million, we get $14.4 million per year. For nonactive people, I bet the conversion rate on the offer will be close to zero percent.” — Scott S.

“This Gunawardena guy is dreaming. Did he just come up with these 75 percent and 50 percent conversion rates? I wouldn’t expect anything higher than 10 to 15 percent.” — George A.

“A high-schooler zipping around on aerosol fumes could come up with the same deductions. I’m mainly concerned about the numbers Gunawardena’s quoting. Conversion rates of 75 percent and 50 percent? What? He seems to have the canny ability to spout out numbers like we are still in the ’99 economy. Where’s the proof?” — Walter F.

Not Feasible: Gunawardena’s Pay-for-Email Proposal

“How can users effectively send $1.00? Credit card? PayPal? Internet banking?” — Nathalie C.

“You’re talking micropayments, which are the bane of pay-for-content. Even though people may be willing to pull a few crumpled ones out of their pockets, merchant or check processing fees on that sort of a payment make it unlikely that Yahoo would mess with such a pittance.” — Roy J.

“Looking at the competitive situation, Microsoft is still using Hotmail as a loss leader to attract users to its .Net platform, so I don’t see it being in any hurry to change its model. Microsoft would love to grab all those ex-Yahoo users at a considerable customer conversion discount.” — Ian C.

Thanks to everyone who responded to “Yahoodwinked.” Apologies if you’re comments weren’t included; only so much space was available. Hopefully the essence of your comments was captured in one of the quotes above.

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