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News Editor

Your company logo on a postage stamp?

Mar 20, 20064 mins
Enterprise Applications

There are two significant numbers to report relative to, the online postage company we’ve written about a few times over the years.

The first is 10.5 billion: That’s the total number of business-to-consumer advertising pieces mailed in the United States every year – any one of which could soon carry postage now that a prohibitive law dating to the 1800s (banning commercial messages on “currency”) has been swept away by Congress.

The second number is zero: That’s the number of repeat pratfalls the company has suffered since those online pranksters at The Smoking Gun nearly stuck’s promising PhotoStamps program in the dead-letter file in the fall of 2004. As you may recall, Smoking Gun editors ordered and received nine sheets of PhotoStamps that depicted the likes of Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, recently deceased Yugoslavian war criminal Slobodan Milosevic, and long-ago executed spies Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. has gone to great lengths since then to avoid a repeat of that embarrassing episode and just completed a second market trial of seven months with nary a killer or spy making it onto a stamp, says CEO Ken McBride.

“Yes, they still try. . . . Lots of people try, but we’re able to catch all that,” he says.

It’s the first figure – those 10.5 billion stampable pieces of commercial snail mail – that has McBride salivating. Back in the ’04 test run, almost one-third of the 3 million PhotoStamps sold over a mere seven and a half weeks (before The Gun went off) were of the commercial variety. It was only after that trial ended that the U.S. Postal Service decided the 19th century statute stood in the way of plastering corporate logos on postage sold over the Internet.

“We’ve had a lot of inquiries throughout the second market test, and we’ve rejected a lot of images that we wished we could have accepted,” McBride says. “We’ll certainly be going back to those folks and telling them that we can now accept the orders once we’re able to do so.” The postal service is expected to give its official approval soon.

Then all McBride will have to worry about is those old Milosevic stamps showing up on eBay.

What sells? . . . Why, sex, of course – sex sells. And free: Free sells big-time. But if you aren’t selling sex or free, what can you sell instead? Cheap. . . . Cheap sells.

That lesson is being driven home yet again by a Phoenix Web hosting company called iPowerWeb, according to Ipwalk, an outfit that pumps out statistics about the Internet. In November iPowerWeb reduced its fee for a domain name registration from $8.25 to $2.95, which Ipwalk says is the cheapest on this planet.

However, $2.95 is so inexpensive it’s only about half of what it costs iPowerWeb to register a name for a customer, meaning the rock-bottom deal isn’t necessarily doing a lot for the company’s bottom line.

Or is it? A Web hoster that had been registering fewer than 2,000 names a month is now doing more than 20,000 in a market that is only getting hotter, Ipwalk says: “At their current growth rate, iPowerWeb would need to upsell roughly 4.5% of their new domain names to one-year hosting packages to balance their costs. IPowerWeb will also earn back money when customers renew domain names after one year, since the low price is only valid for the first year. Many customers may not be aware that the renewal price is $8.25.”

That catch is in the fine print, which isn’t all that hard to read, considering the temptation to bury such a caveat six pages deep. That iPowerWeb didn’t do so might indicate an interest in maintaining long-term customer relationships. Cheap can grow old awfully fast (as can free).

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