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Juno gets in on lobbying game

The company known for its free email service launches a new offering making it easier for its members to reach out and touch their congressional representatives.

    Juno, best known for its free email service, is launching a new service that will make it easier for its members to reach out and touch their congressional representatives.

    Together with Washington, D.C., public affairs firm Issues Dynamics, Juno is launching a service that will allow companies and organizations interested in congressional issues to contact constituents via the Juno service.

    Juno, which runs a 6.2-million member free dial-up email service, as well as a Net access service, since March has offered lobbyists the ability to directly target its members with pop-up ads. The ads offer members the opportunity to have someone else send email to or phone their congressional representatives on their behalf.

    While politicians and others have longed to use email to directly contact constituents, many have held back for fear of alienating recipients. But Juno has an advantage over many organizations--even over a company like America Online.

    Juno members agree to supply private information about themselves and to receive ads in order to get the company's free email service. Other free Web-based email services work the same way, but Juno's, like AOL's, is offered through a closed dial-up network, meaning ads can be targeted at specific members, such as those over or under a certain age, or from a specific region.

    Unlike AOL, however, Juno members get a free service (email) in return for volunteering to receive ads, so they are likely to be more receptive to them. And with the introduction of the congressional contact service, Juno members now will be able to take advantage of two free offerings.

    Juno has accepted direct advertising campaigns having to do with education, consumer finance, utility deregulation, health care, and telecomunications, among others. It has turned away some ads, such as those marketing tobacco, said Roger Stone, director of the Juno Advocacy Network, the division of Juno running the program.

    So far, the response has been overwhelming, Stone said.

    "It's been nothing short of amazing," Stone said, noting that the ads have had a 6-and-a-half to 12-and-a-half percent response rate.

    Starting today, Juno members opting for the congressional contact service will be able to choose between having Issues Dynamics send email or make phone calls in their stead. If the user chooses to send email, a personal email--complete with the member's email and home addresses--automatically will be sent. If, on the other hand, members want to call, they are asked give their phone number and indicate a time when they will be available.

    The service will automatically call the member at the designated time and ask if he or she would like to be connected to the congressional member. It pretty much does everything but talk for the person.

    Juno's new service already is available, though given that Congress is currently in recess, it is likely to be more widely used after the first of the year.