E-Mail's Growth Creates Demand for Change-of-Address Firms

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Atlanta-based start-up Changed E-mail is the second company to emerge this year hoping to become the Internet's version of the U.S. Postal Service's National Change of Address service.

Also, there is reportedly at least one other e-mail change-of-address company set to debut. But details were unavailable yesterday.

Introduced to the industry in mid-September, Changed E-mail said it has developed a service that allows consumers and businesses to have messages that are delivered to their old addresses forwarded to their most recent electronic mailbox. The new service is available in two formats: a free, basic e-mail forwarding and a premium service that offers privacy and spam protection.

"We're going to be the middleman, just like the U.S. Postal Service," said Jim Weitner, founder/CEO of Changed E-mail. "We'll take all the mail that goes to someone's old address and forward it to their new address."

Consumers who sign up for the basic service, which simply passes on e-mail from one box to another, are notified that as a result of signing up, Changed E-mail reserves the right to sell their profile information to "partners and advertisers."

The $10-per-year "executive" service enables users to block e-mail from selected addresses and to send an auto reply with the new e-mail name to anyone who reaches the outdated e-mail address. Changed E-mail said it would not release the profile information of its executive members.

There are growing indications that the e-mail forwarding space is an attractive one. Earlier this year, another company, ActiveNames, New York, debuted with similar aspirations. ActiveNames seeks to provide NCOA-like services for businesses and marketers and to give consumers a way to automatically update their contacts each time they change e-mail addresses.

Two weeks ago, ActiveNames announced a deal with FloNetwork that would allow the e-mail marketing services firm to become the exclusive U.S. reseller of the ActiveNames services. By giving FloNetwork the rights to sell the service to its roster of clients, ActiveNames gains an audience with some of the industry's more prominent e-commerce and marketing companies, such as BarnesandNoble.com, buy.com and Omaha Steaks.

Both ActiveNames, with FloNetwork, and Changed E-mail, with publicly held Internet content developer bib.net Corp., have the support of strong partners. FloNetwork CEO Eric Goodwin said he expects ActiveNames' service to become an important part of the customer relationship management space.

"There is a strong demand for a consumer-friendly change of e-mail address service that addresses current customer requirements for permission-based marketing," Goodwin said in a written statement.

Rod Sailor, CEO of bib.net, said he believed the new firm could soon be a major player in the e-mail world.

"It's the first company to address the growing problem of undelivered e-mail, which confronts anyone who changes e-mail from one provider to another," Sailor said. Bib.net holds a 20 percent stake in Changed E-mail in exchange for providing the company with infrastructure and consultative services.

Weitner, Changed E-mail's founder, said he first thought of creating this service last year when he tried to reach a friend at what turned out to be a closed e-mail account. The message bounced back to Weitner with no forwarding information and no clues as to what to do next.

Over the following six months, Weitner, a self-described entrepreneur who previously owned and managed Atlanta-area health clubs, researched how mail is forwarded in the physical world and how that could be translated to the electronic world. When he developed the plan, he presented it to bib.net and began the slow rollout.

Changed E-mail has been forwarding e-mail on a small scale for a number of its early registrants. The service only began signing people up in August, Weitner said. He did not divulge how many names are in the Changed E-mail database but said he expects to reach 2 million subscribers within a year. The five-person company's next tactic is to go to colleges and universities in the hopes of convincing them to try the service and quickly gaining mass.

"They have tens of thousands of e-mail accounts and every year new kids come in [and] get an e-mail address, and every year kids leave the university," said Weitner, explaining his interest in reaching that market.

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