Two Week Update: Originally this experiment only shared the first idea in this blog post and people would have to contact the paywall email to get the last four or five ideas. During the last two weeks I had two contacts and none paid for the full content after the initial mail. There are many reasons it may not have worked; it's a different process than people are used to, the bait wasn't intriguing enough, the price was too high, or people just weren't interested. Either way, this is an interesting service and I'll be testing it out in other experiments and if you play with it, I'd love to hear how your experiments go :)
Recently I was tipped off about a new email paywall service called wrte.io that lets people pay you to receive their email. Definitely a novel concept and one I'd only heard of once before as an extremely aggressive way to prevent spam. But this service was different and it got me thinking. Why would people pay to have an email read by someone? After a little brainstorm I came up with a few ideas on how to use this service.
Idea Number 1 – Knowledge Requests
Often when seeking to replicate something that has already been done before, people will want to seek advice from those that have done it before. This can be through consultancy relationships, advisory boards and even long term mentorship. However if you want something with a little but less commitment you're often limited to a quick tweet here and there or asking someone if they fancy a meeting over coffee. This can be great but it's not always an investment that makes sense on both sides. What if all you really want is a quick thought out answer to a specific question? That is one avenue where I can see this service working and one of the ideas that I've decided to experiment with first.
Idea 2 – Community Paywalls
I recently signed up to join a community on Slack for Digital Nomads. As part of this process I had to fill out a form and make a payment to show my commitment to the group and help fund development of the community. After a completing a quick form and making the payment I was added automatically invited to the group via email. Whilst this particular community had used a paid form solution and some custom coding to automate the process, you could just as easily set up a unique email address with an auto-responder that emails an invitation to anyone who makes the payment and gets through to you.
Idea 3 – Product Delivery
If you've ever developed a digital product such as an information product or software then you will have invariably had to work out the best way of actually selling the thing! There are many options these days ranging from your own eCommerce store, online marketplaces and of course email delivery. This service strikes me as a simple way of automating the email delivery of a product. If somebody wants to purchase the product all they have to do is email your purchase address and they will receive an invoice which they can pay to receive an auto-responder delivery of the product. If you use a unique email for each product you will also have a log of every person that has purchased your product if you need to send out updates and communications in the future.
Idea 4 – Paid Services by Email
If you offer services that can easily be delivered by email then you could easily use this as your eCommerce solution with minimal effort. This would be ideal for simple one-off services such as article writing, proof reading and research tasks where you can easily set a flat payment level or use the initial payment as a deposit for you to begin processing the order. This wouldn't even require an automation and you could personally respond with the finished product within a certain time-frame specified in advance.
Idea 5 – Pay Per Lead: Lead Generation for Business
This one is a little bit more technical however it is still a relatively simple process with tools like Gravity Forms for WordPress. If you can build simple lead generation sites online you could make a deal with business owners where they pay for each lead they receive. All you would need to do on the backend is set the sending email of the website as the business owners standard email (so they receive the invoice) and the receiving email for form submissions as the businesses paywall email so that they only receive the original form submission email containing the full lead details once they make payment.
Bonus Idea – Gated Content
One last idea for fun that you might just recognise! Simply seed some content on the web and then have people email you if they want to receive the rest of the content in full. If the experiment worked then this is the exact reason that you happen to be reading this right now ;) There are probably lots more ways to get creative with this, for example seeding partially password protected content for free through file sharing networks where people need to email you and pay to access the password for the full thing.
The beauty of a service like this is that there are very little overheads to get started so hopefully these ideas have sparked a few of your own ideas that you can implement today. If you've used this service or plan to set up any of your own micro-businesses/revenue streams with it then please feel free to comment below. I'd be interested to see what others are already doing with it!
2 thoughts on “Email PayWalls: An Experiment …”
Daniel– fantastic concept finally put to life.
In 1995, Bill Gates discusses the implications of this email payment concept in “The Road Ahead”, alongside paying to get priority on toll roads or other sparse resources. I was enamored by this 20 years ago and still am today!
Thanks for recommendation/comment. It looks like the book hasn’t made the leap to Kindle but will keep an eye out for it. I find there is a lot of unexploited wisdom in the material that came out in the honeymoon period of the world wide web. Whether it was because the world wasn’t ready or the technology hadn’t quite evolved enough yet there are still a lot of exciting things to come!