Pricing Electronic Mail to Solve the Problem of Spam

52 Pages Posted: 15 Jul 2005  

Robert E. Kraut

Carnegie Mellon University - David A. Tepper School of Business; Carnegie Mellon University - School of Computer Science

Shyam Sunder

Yale University - School of Management; Yale University - Cowles Foundation

Rahul Telang

Carnegie Mellon University - H. John Heinz III School of Public Policy and Management

James Morris

Carnegie Mellon University - School of Computer Science

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Abstract

Junk e-mail or spam is rapidly choking off e-mail as a reliable and efficient means of communication over the Internet. Although the demand for human attention increases rapidly with the volume of information and communication, the supply of attention hardly changes. Markets are a social institution for efficiently allocating supply and demand of scarce resources. Charging a price for sending messages may help discipline senders from demanding more attention than they are willing to pay for. Price may also credibly inform recipients about the value of a message to the sender before they read it. This article examines economic approaches to the problem of spam and the results of two laboratory experiments to explore the consequences of a pricing system for electronic mail. Charging postage for e-mail causes senders to be more selective and to send fewer messages. However, recipients did not interpret the postage paid by senders as a signal of the importance of the messages. These results suggest that markets for attention have the potential for addressing the problem of spam but their design needs further development and testing.

Keywords: spam, Junk, pricing e-mail, market for attention

JEL Classification: D40, D61, L50, L86, L96, O33

Suggested Citation

Kraut, Robert E. and Sunder, Shyam and Telang, Rahul and Morris, James, Pricing Electronic Mail to Solve the Problem of Spam. Yale ICF Working Paper No. 05-24. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=753664

Robert E. Kraut (Contact Author)

Carnegie Mellon University - David A. Tepper School of Business ( email )

5000 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3890
United States
412-268-7694 (Phone)
412-268-1266 (Fax)

Carnegie Mellon University - School of Computer Science

5000 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15213
United States

Shyam Sunder

Yale University - School of Management ( email )

165 Whitney Avenue
P.O. Box 208200
New Haven, CT 06520-8200
United States
203-432-6160 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.som.yale.edu/faculty/sunder/

Yale University - Cowles Foundation

Box 208281
New Haven, CT 06520-8281
United States

Rahul Telang

Carnegie Mellon University - H. John Heinz III School of Public Policy and Management ( email )

4800 Forbes Ave
Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3890
United States
412-268-1155 (Phone)

James H. Morris

Carnegie Mellon University - School of Computer Science ( email )

5000 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15213
United States
412-268-2574 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www-2.cs.cmu.edu/~jhm/

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