29 percent of Internet users have purchased something they were pointed to via spam, according to a study by Marshal. Not surprisingly, the most commonly purchased items include Viagra and porn, but also software, and luxury items such as watches, jewelery and clothing – the counterfeit type.

spam Is spam a matter of supply and demand? 622 visitors of the Marshal site took a poll, which asked ‘What purchases have you made from spam?’. Quite a tendentious question if you’d ask me. ‘Have you made purchases from spam?’, would have been a more balanced question.

Anyway, a similar poll from Forrester Research from 2004 showed that out of 6,000 respondents, 20 percent had made purchases from spam. So the problem is getting worse. A reason for this could be that Internet users have gotten more used to making online purchases. Or that spam has become more sophisticated (in a negative way), like blog spam.

If taken seriously, this study shows that spam is a matter of supply and demand. “The poll highlights an inconvenient truth,” said Marshal’s Vice-President of Products, Bradley Anstis. “Many of us often question ourselves, why is there so much spam? The answer is, enough people are purchasing products from spam to make it a worthwhile and profitable endeavor for spammers.”

Marshal’s Website poll indicates that the number of respondents who admitted to making a purchase through spam have made multiple purchases; on average, more than two different types of purchase per person. This supports the conclusion that those who buy from spam make a habit of it. My guess is that people buy stuff via spam which they wouldn’t dare to buy in public.

So spam turns out to be a rather booming business. No wonder the number of spam emails already make up for 85 percent of all email traffic. Anstis: “There are approximately 250 million people out there who are interested in these kinds of products and have made purchases from spam in the past. That’s equivalent to double the population of Japan mixed in with every other Internet user. As a spammer – how do you reach that market without knowing specifically who these people are and with the bare minimum of expense? Easy, send lots of emails to everyone.”