Researchers urge consideration of spam incentives

Although most Internet users find spam annoying, some would not mind living with it, if they are given incentives such as discounts from their Internet service providers (ISPs), according to a study by two university researchers.

The study by Clyde Bentley, an associate professor at the University of Missouri-Columbia's Missouri School of Journalism, and Anca Micu, a doctoral student at the school, found that young Internet users would accept spam in exchange for an internet service fee discount.

The researchers elicited responses by posting a questionnaire online and then sending out the survey's uniform resource locator in a mass e-mailing to the community around the university.

More than 2,140 entries were analyzed. The study's results show while students and non-students receive the same amount of unsolicited e-mail, the two groups hold different attitudes on accepting spam.

While 63.37 percent of non-students would not accept spam under any conditions, only 37.56 percent of the students shared that opinion. And for each discount level suggested, more students were willing to accept spam than non-students.

Another difference between the two samples was their Internet connection quality. While 61.52 percent of the non-student sample used cheaper dial-up services, only 36.52 percent of students used the same method.

These results proved the researchers' hypothesis that users paying high monthly service fees are willing to receive spam for a discounted rate.

The researchers proposed a new model based on their findings that would have ISPs directly e-mail customers advertisements in exchange for a monthly internet service fee discount.

The ISPs would recover the cost of the discounted fees from the advertisers who would send bulk e-mail messages, according to Bentley and Anca.

"This model is a win-win-win situation; all three sides -- the consumers, the ISPs and the advertisers would be satisfied," concluded their report.

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