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GoldMail: Return to sender

GoldMail, a service that offered to reward surfers with prizes if they agreed to read ads on the Net, shuts its doors.

GoldMail, a service that offered to reward surfers with big prizes if they agreed to read ads on the Net, has shut its doors.

This month, GoldMail's parent company, Maritz Marketing Research, sent out a letter to users who had been waiting to participate in GoldMail and said the service has been discontinued.

Launched last June, GoldMail never really got off the ground. Although GoldMail says it raked in about 30,000 interested members and boasted in July that it had deals with Chevron, Holiday Inn Worldwide, Iomega, and Spiegel, it never coaxed in enough advertisers to generate revenue.

GoldMail's strategy was to set up mailboxes for members, where it sent targeted, interactive advertisements. Members would then gain points by answering surveys, which could be used toward brand-name houseware, electronics, sporting goods, jewelry, or travel packages. Extra award points would be awarded for taking additional action such as linking to the advertiser's Web site or accepting an offer.

In late July, GoldMail sent out its first ad for a Visa credit card from a major financial services company. Soon after, GoldMail closed off enrollment and promised to reopen in the first quarter of this year. That plan has been axed.

"We didn't have a lack of interest in terms of surfers, but we did find difficulty in finding sponsors," Sid Hutchins, senior vice president of Maritz said today. "It was just too early in the life of the Internet. You need major advertiser sponsors. We may try it again one day."

As for now, the GoldMail site is still live, but there is no word of the cancellation. Hutchins said the company is working on taking the site down.