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Service helps target email ads

Web site maintenance and promotion firm AtWeb launches a service that allows site managers to send targeted email to members.

Web maintenance and promotion service AtWeb today launched a new service that allows site managers to send targeted email messages to members.

The service, called Web Site Post Office, essentially provides the back-end technology for companies that wish to establish email channels with users who request them.

Establishing a means to collect detailed data about Web users can be very appealing to Web sites trying to sell ad space. Industry analysts have long recommended that Web sites allow advertisers to more effectively target customers based on demographics.

However, the backlash is that many users do not want their information in the hands of advertisers and have become vocal about sites that collect private information. In many instances, user information also has been sold to third parties, which has caused considerable ire among Netizens.

Web Site Post Office establishes a box on a Web page that gives users the option to receive notices from the site. When a user clicks on the box, an email message is sent confirming the request; the user then has 48 hours to reply. If the user does not approve the request within 48 hours, he or she will not be included on the list. If the user decides to join, WSPO then allows site managers to create a questionnaire to obtain information about the newly established member.

Web Site Post Office gives site managers a choice of 28 questions to ask their members, and offers the option to make the questions mandatory or optional. It also enables site managers to measure demographic information such as the user's browser type, depending upon the questions asked. The service also can provide data about user habits while that are visiting the site.

Although the use of this product may be helpful for Web managers to send targeted, focused email, it could draw fire for what some would say is promoting the dissemination of bulk email.

The company maintained, however, that the service's two prevention factors--setting up an option box and the 48 hour response time--will ensure customer choice for receiving site information.

In addition, since Web Site Post Office is the sole administrator of the information, Web sites using the service could not obtain a mass listing of members' personal information, and AtWeb says it will not sell the information to third parties.

"We're trying to avoid the spamming aspect and we're definitely trying to avoid the [dissemination of] unsolicited email," said company spokesman Kyle Arteaga. "'We're not going sell any information."

Web Site Post Office is offered in both a free and subscription format. The free service includes a four-line advertisement at the bottom of each email message that a Web site sends out to its members. Web sites that do not want advertisements can opt for the $8.95 monthly version.