A Viable Alternative to Spamming

9 June 1999
It's now easier than ever to create and subscribe to electronic mailing lists. Through Topica (www.topica.com), an innovative service launched earlier this year, users can subscribe to one or more of thousands of topic-specific lists--lists which serve as valuable new venues for advertisers.

Topica uses three forms of advertising. The first is banners, which appear on the site. The second is the attachment of ads to emails. Whether advertisements are placed in emails is entirely up to the list owners, however, those who allow ads are rewarded with a percentage of the revenue. The third form of advertising is stand-alone commercial email in which subscribers with specific interests can join commercial email lists.

According to Topica, its services level the playing field for small businesses and large corporations. Electronic mailing lists allow independent companies to communicate with their customers. For example, a small restaurant owner might start a mailing list, and converse with his or her customers about new menu items or specials.

Topica's site offers more than 40,000 topic-specific email lists. Topics range from book-binding to Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal to Kevin Costner movies. Sites like Topica make it easy to create an email list because all that is required to subscribe to or own a list is a web browser and an email account.

The electronic mailing list is one of three forms of discussion group technology. The other two are newsgroups and chat rooms, which are both very open forums for discussion. Email lists, in contrast, are controlled by list owners, who both nurture the list environment and keep discussions on topic. List owners are also responsible for regulating their lists.

Topica has taken many steps to make sure no spamming occurs through its services. Users are armed with the ability to police their own lists and to let the company know when someone abuses the mailing lists.

Privacy, which is a major concern for many Internet users, is also a concern for Topica, which has strict rules regarding it. Personal information is not disclosed to any third party once it is entered into Topica's site. List owners, however, have the option of publishing a list of email addresses for all the subscribers of a specific list.