A Report of the Working Group on Internet Advertising
The Coalition for Networked Information
September 28, 1994
Billboards are the signs on the road that tell about services on or near the road — in this case the Internet equivalents of hotels and motels, tourist attractions, restaurants, and gas stations. They are most acceptable when they appear in context, most reviled when they are scattershot attempts to find audiences in unlikely spots.
A billboard might be a press release or product announcement on a list or newsgroup devoted to a related topic. For instance, a list devoted to public-access library catalogs might accept a posting from a company that helps institutions computerize their card catalogs.
Some lists tend to get more billboards than others. On com-priv, where participants discuss the commercialization and privatization of the Internet, related advertising is viewed with equanimity:
To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Re: Internet Business Report and Internet Letter Date: Mon, 15 Nov 93 23:27:22 EST Attention Subscribers of Internet Business Report or Internet Letter Flushed with their continued international success, the publishers of THE INTERNET BUSINESS JOURNAL are presently offering you a free three month trial subscription to THE INTERNET BUSINESS JOURNAL. THE INTERNET BUSINESS JOURNAL's premiere issue in June 1993 attracted the attention of sources such as Business Week, Fortune, Wired, The Globe and Mail, and since then continues to set the standard for reporting on Internet business opportunities and resources. The editor of THE INTERNET BUSINESS JOURNAL, Michael Strangelove, explains the reasoning behind this bold free offer, "We have a product that is guaranteed to be simply the best, and therefore dare to invite comparison. When it comes to price, focus, content, and quality, we continue to set the standard. Success is always imitated, but why should you settle for smaller, more expensive products? Subscribers may take advantage of this offer by sending proof of subscription to THE INTERNET BUSINESS JOURNAL, Subscription Manager, 208-A Somerset Street East, Ottawa, Ontario, CANADA K1N 6V2. (Tel: 613-747-6106 / FAX: 613-564-6641). THE INTERNET BUSINESS JOURNAL: Commercial Opportunities in the Networking Age Published by Strangelove Internet Enterprises Inc. Purveyors of Fine Internet Publications Mstrange@Fonorola.Net [From: email@example.com (Strangelove Press) Date: Mon. 15 Nov 93 23:27:22 EST]
Alt-wedding, a Usenet discussion group important to those who are planning weddings, is not comfortable with advertising, and participants gently make their feelings known when advertisers invade their space:
From: [information deleted] Newsgroups: alt.wedding Subject: Wedding Coordinator Date: 6 Jan 94 19:46:06 GMT Followup-To: alt.wedding Organization: IRHE Lines: 25 Hello Everyone: I am so happy that so many are going to be married soon. Wedded Bliss! Nothing like it. My name is [name deleted] and I live in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I wanted to let you all know that I am a professional wedding coordinator and would be happy to extend my services to you. I can work with you even if you do not live the Philadelphia area. I specialize in wedding budgets $5,000 and under. I can be reached via e-mail or phone at .... during the day. Should you want additional information, please do not hesitate to contact me. My mailing address is as follows: ....[name and address deleted]... Look forward to hearing from you soon. # # # From: [information deleted] Newsgroups: alt.wedding Subject: APOLOGIES FOR AD Followup-To: alt.wedding Date: Mon, 10 Jan 1994 10:00:39 -0500 Organization: IRHE Lines: 8 In response to the ad I placed about a wedding coordinator, I want to apologize for sending my ad through this forum. I have offended a few and they have let me know. Never again will I make that mistake. [information deleted]
The participants in alt.wedding, who are more interested in the flames of passion than in flaming, probably treated [the poster] gently. Billboards for products unrelated to the subject under discussion on lists and newsgroups may very well engender unprintable words and threats — “flaming.”
But where such advertising is allowed, it is often most welcome, because the participants in these lists and newsgroups have joined to get the kind of information advertisers can provide.
For advertisers, billboards on lists and newsgroups that allow it are opportunities to reach people who have already expressed an interest in the kinds of products and services offered. These people are, in marketing terms, “pre-qualified”: they care about these products and services.