Tell us about your experiences with Marketplace. Enter To Win
Codebreaker

Congratulations on your 100th problem Jay Z

Marc Sanchez Jul 20, 2012

For the past two years, David Johnson has been sending emails to Jay Z. Johnson doesn’t know the rap mogul, he’s just a fan who wants to keep in touch. Not even Johnson can say why, exactly, what Hova thinks of the notes (or how he got Jay Z’s email address), but one thing is for sure: they are being read. That’s thanks to the ReadNotify receipts that Johnson attaches to each email. Not only do these auto-responses let Johnson know that his email has been received and opened, but they also let him know where they were opened. BuzzFeed tracked Johnson down:

“[Jay] has opened every single one of my emails, even re-opening them to re-read,” says Johnson. “He has clicked on links and had emails open for as long as 20 minutes.” He knows this because he uses a tool called ReadNotify, which embeds a small, unique invisible image in every message he sends. When the message is opened, the image loads from ReadNotify’s servers, which record the time of the view, its duration and rough location. ReadNotify then gives the sender a read receipt, confirming that the message was seen. These services have been around for years, and they work — this kind of “bugging” is an old email marketing trick.


Johnson has been trying to sell his one-sided correspondences as a bound volume to publishers, who are interested. So far, nobody will pony up the cash to print the book, but that could change if Jay Z decides to reply to an email.

Marketplace is on a mission.

We believe Main Street matters as much as Wall Street, economic news is made relevant and real through human stories, and a touch of humor helps enliven topics you might typically find…well, dull.

Through the signature style that only Marketplace can deliver, we’re on a mission to raise the economic intelligence of the country—but we don’t do it alone. We count on listeners and readers like you to keep this public service free and accessible to all. Will you become a partner in our mission today?

Your donation is critical to the future of public service journalism. Support our work today – for as little as $5 – and help us keep making people smarter.