Paid to Read Email Programs – Part One: The Players

January 11, 2005

Not exactly REWARDS programs, but these sites pay you for clicking on links in email or onsite. Paid to read email? What’s the catch? Read on!

Can a person really get paid just to visit websites? The answer is, yes…maybe. :)
Paid to read email programs, also known as PTRs, pay you to click on links in emails or on their site. Where does the money come from? Their advertisers. Who advertises on these things? Sometimes it’s someone who wants you to do a search on their search engine. Other times, it’s someone who wants to tell you about a new PTR with the hopes you’ll join with his link and become part of his “downline.” More on this later. Once in a while, you’ll see an ad for something completely different, but these are the two main kinds of ads.
So, there are three main players here: the PTR owners, the PTR advertisers, and the PTR members.
The PTR owners make money by selling ads at a profit. A simple example: they may sell “a 1c ad to 500 members” for $6… they pay out $5 (1c x 500 members) and keep the extra $1 as profit. (Well, they have to pay hosting fees out of it, but it goes TOWARD their profit.)
The PTR advertiser hopes to get more than $5 in value for his ad — either from folks who join the PTR site they advertise and become part of their “downline”, or from folks who do more than $5 worth of searches for them.
What’s a “downline” and what’s the advantage? A downline is made up of all the people who join a program with your link (that’s your “first level” referrals) and the people who join under THEM (your “second level” referrals), and the people who join under *THEM* (your “third level” referrals), etc., etc. PTR sites reward you with a certain percentage of your referrals’ activity. Each site sets up how much it pays each level of your downline (and how many levels deep), but for an example, you might earn 10% of your first level referrals’ earnings, 5% of your second level, and 1% of your third level. Earning money for other people’s work…a big incentive for people to advertise PTR sites.
So downline building is one big reason people advertise. Another reason is to advertise your search engine and hopefully make money from searches.
What search engines? How is there money to be made here?
There are dozens of minor search engines out there that exist to sell advertising to small businesses and affiliates (folks who push specific merchants in return for getting a commission on sales). These small businesses and affiliates bid on specific keywords (a small online college might bid on “distance learning,” “education,” “degrees,” “college degrees,” etc.). The “bid” is what the business will pay the search engine EACH TIME someone does a search for his keywords and visits his site.
Well, this sounds great…selling (usually) cheap advertising to small businesses. But what good is selling those bids if nobody does the searches? The search engine needs its OWN affiliates — people to advertise the search engine and hopefully bring in people to actually CLICK on those bidded listings. These search engine affiliates are paid a percentage of the bidded amount each time someone does a “valid search” (a topic for another article).
So, say the small college bids 10c for each valid clickthru to his site when someone searches for “distance learning.” The search engine may pay his affiliates 80% of the bidded amount…so the affiliate makes 8c on that search. The remaining 2c is profit for the search engine owner.
Okay, so back to the PTR advertising. The search engine affiliate needs to get folks searching so he can make his 80%. He buys an ad to go to 500 people for $6. His dream come true would be that all 500 people did a valid search for a 10c bidded listing…he’d make 500 x (10c*80%) = $40 minus the $6 cost of his ad, or $34.
So to sum up — PTR advertisers mostly either want you to join their downlines so they can earn money as you participate in this other, new PTR… or they want you to do a search so they can earn a percentage of your clicks on highly bidded terms.
And that leaves PTR members…folks like you and me who sign up to a “paid to read email program” and agree to receive emails containing, as in the above example, a link for 1c.
So that’s the economics of rewards programs. It SHOULD work out well for everyone — everybody makes money — but in reality, there are some places where the system often fails.
Continue Reading: Part Two — Where the System Fails

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