One born every minute

This morning’s Observer column — on the profitability of spam.

So who were the schmucks buying this stuff? It seems that among those who responded to Amazing’s spam – under the subject line, ‘Make your penis HUGE’ – was the manager of a $6bn mutual fund, who ordered two bottles of Pinacle to be shipped to his Park Avenue office in New York. A restaurateur in Boulder, Colorado requested four bottles. The president of a California firm that sells aeroplane parts and is active in the local Rotary Club gave out his American Express card number to pay for six bottles. And so on.

So pharmaceutical spamming is profitable. What then of the ‘pump and dump’ variety? A new study by Jonathan Zittrain of the Oxford Internet Institute and Laura Frieder of Purdue University in Indiana provides persuasive evidence that it, too, is profitable – though probably less so than penis-enlargement spams…