There's no free lunch, but Freemark Communications this fall will offer a free email service that's supported entirely by advertising.
The Cambridge, Massachusetts, company is banking on the fact that many PC owners subscribe to online services solely to gain email access. According to Freemark officials, there are more than 30 million consumers with home PCs who do not yet have links to online services.
Consumers who wish to sign up for the service will be required to furnish basic information including name, address, gender, and age. There will be no cost for the connection, software, or service after that, officials said.
Advertisements will accompany email in several forms. Messages will be sent in envelope forms with advertiser logos replacing stamps. Upon opening a message, recipients will see ads in banner form across the bottom of the screen. Users of the system will receive coupons and other offers from advertisers, but Freemark officials stressed that data about individuals will not be released to marketeers without permission.
A trial of the system will be launched in large urban areas this fall, including San Francisco and Boston.