Unsolicited Commercial E-Mail: Empirical Analysis of a Digital Commons
Nigel P. Melville
University of Michigan, Stephen M. Ross School of Business
affiliation not provided to SSRN
Robert K. Plice
San Diego State University
Oleg V. Pavlov
Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) - Department of Social Science & Policy Studies
July 1, 2006
International Journal of Electronic Commerce, Vol.10, No. 4, pp. 143-168, 2006
Unsolicited commercial e-mail (UCE) is a significant problem of the digital commons, but there has been little empirical analysis of proposed solutions and underlying mechanisms. This study, based on an analysis of 47 million inbound e-mail messages drawn from a cross-section of e-mail inbox owners over a one-year period, characterizes resource overuse in the e-mail commons. The absence of a growth trend in UCE message volume raises questions about the sampling methodologies underlying media reports about spam. The distribution of UCE messages reveals a cyclical trend, peaking in mid-week and subsiding on weekends, that can be explained in part by the trend of regular e-mail messages-an unanticipated finding given the difference between UCE and ordinary email communication. Ruling out technological constraints and workweek conventions, the study suggests that these co-varying patterns come about because UCE senders strategically exploit the unique features of the on-line commons, including instantaneous feedback, information transparency, identity misrepresentation, and technological progress. Analysis of these properties can lead to improved management of the digital commons.
Keywords: Attention endowment, Box-Jenkins, common-pool resource,digital commons, exclusion, e-mail marketing, IS management, rival, spam,time series, UCE
Date posted: October 24, 2008
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