The American Way Raises its Ugly Head
Date: Sun, 8 May 94 12:24:03 PDT
Subject: The American Way Raises its Ugly Head
Forwarded-by: bostic@vangogh.CS.Berkeley.EDU (Keith Bostic)
Forwarded-by: Wendell Craig Baker <wbaker@ic.EECS.Berkeley.EDU>
Enclosed is the article ``Firm To Put Ads On Internet'' from today's
San Jose Mercury News. It describes a new advertising company called
Cybersell which will place advertisements on the Internet (which is to
say via Usenet news). Cybersell is an spin-out of the law firm of
Laurence Canter and Martha Siegel, who are partners of their immigration
law firm, Canter & Siegel.
Canter & Siegel's reticence on the ad-on-the-Internet idea has been
fodder for several weeks worth of news and mailing-list discussion.
Plans were even floated on various venues describing how to suppress
ads on a news servers using a scoring approach based on some sort of
scripting language like tcl. So, I guess you'd sign up to read your
news from an ``ad free'' news server.
Recently I attended a conference where email addresses were printed
along with the usual name, address, and phone number in the
those-registered list that was distributed to each attendee. It was
not a week before I received a mass mailing from one of the conference
participants asking if I'd buy his book.
... it's coming.
Extracted from San Jose Mercury News, Saturday May 7th 1994 Edition,
Business Section, pages 14D & 15D.
Firm To Put Ads On Internet
Cybersell shuns plan for ad zones, hopes to reach all network users.
In a move that is certain to increase the turmoil on global computer
networks, two Arizona lawyers said Friday that they had formed a company
with the goal of making commercial advertisements pervasive on the Internet.
In doing so, they shunned a plan, announced earlier this week by two
other companies, to create specific advertising zones on Usenet News,
a popular network that is connected to the Internet, a global web of
computer networks. The advertising zones, which would require advertisers
to pay a fee to place their messages on the network, would theoretically
allow the estimated 20 million Internet users to choose whether they
viewed the advertisements or not.
Legal Team Criticized
The new advertising company, called Cybersell, was started by Laurence
Canter and Martha Siegel, husband-and-wife partners in the immigration
law firm Canter & Siegel in Phoenix.
Canter and Siegel have been the focus of intense criticism on several
computer networks since April 12, when they posted an advertisement offering
their legal services on thousands of Usenet bulletin boards, called news
groups. The advertisements were deliberately placed without regard for the
interests of the specific news groups.
The first product Cybersell will advertise throughout the Internet is "a
health product, super-oxygenated water," Siegel said Friday. "You drink
it and the fact that it has additional oxygen gives you additional energy
and promotes the healing process," she claimed, adding that the company
would be ready to post the ads "within days, certainly within two weeks".
The Usenet is one of the largest networks within the Internet, read by an
estimated 10 million people. Both the Internet and Usenet are self-governing,
and most of the computers comprising the networks are privately owned.
There are no laws prohibiting the posting of advertisements on Usenet or
elsewhere on the Internet, but the act violated long-held traditions against
random placement of any type of messages on news groups.
Such scatter-shot messaging is known as "spamming".
Each Usenet participant pays, either directly or indirectly, for the data
he or she receives. In contrast, the cost to spam an advertisement in
thousands of news groups, where it is potentially read by hundreds of
thousands of computer users, is typically less than $50.
The first advertisement spamming by Canter and Siegel resulted in tens of
thousands of complaints -- even death threats -- from Usenet readers.
Electronic vandals jammed the law firm's telephone, facsimile and computer
systems for days afterward.
But Siegel said the law firm made so much money from its ad -- offering,
for $95 per person, to help foreign nationals fill out free applications
for U.S. government "green card" work permits -- that it decided to
continue with the ads.
Canter said he and his wife planned to write a book telling other companies
how to advertise on the Internet.
In response to the outcry, Internet Co. of Cambridge, Mass. and Electronic
Newsstand of Washington, both of which provide Internet services, announced
that they would create "an acceptable channel" on Usenet where companies
could place commercial advertising, product information, promotional offers
and price lists.
In an interview Friday, however, Siegel rejected the idea of special
advertising zones and said Cybersell would post its messages to all
"I think it is too limiting," she said of the advertising zone proposal.
"Advertising has to take its place on the Internet, just as it has in other
media -- newspapers, TV and radio."
© 1994 Peter Langston