The new service, which was first reported by DM News, allows AltaVista visitors to check specific categories and receive third-party merchant emails, said Rosalind Resnick, president of NetCreations.
Portals could increasingly follow AltaVista's lead, since the service not only gives consumers the choice to opt-in to an offer but also allows vendors to send more targeted advertisements, Resnick said.
"For us, email campaigns are getting click-throughs of 5 percent to 15 percent," said Resnick, who compared the figure to a roughly 1 percent click-through average for advertising banners. "When you can offer a medium that's much more responsive than a banner, you could charge more for it."
The move also is positive in the eyes of antispammers such as Jason Catlett, president of JunkBusters, who has applauded NetCreations's effort to institute strict opt-in policies for sending out email offers.
"NetCreations really established that space of opt-in email at a time when direct marketers did not believe that people would voluntarily sign up for email," he said.
NetCreations allows the user to decide whether he or she wants to receive email offers. Once the visitor enters in an email address, NetCreations sends out a message to the user, who then has to respond in order to join the list service.
NetCreations then manages the lists and charges third-party vendors between 20 cents and 25 cents per name to send offers out to specific category groups. Thus, if a list member indicates an interest in clothing, he or she will receive email offers from clothing manufacturers.
Other portals also have taken steps to introduce direct marketing into their various revenue streams. Last month, for example, YahooacquiredYoyodyne for $29.6 million in stock. Yoyodyne allows Yahoo to sell beefed-up ad-banner packages featuring sweepstake offerings.
Catlett agreed that more portals soon may follow suit and create their own opt-in services.
"There is a tremendous amount of 'me-too-ism' in the portal space," he added. "They can't have their brands damaged by being associated with a less-than squeaky-clean emailer."