Monday, March 12, 2007

Email Marketers and the Long View of Spam

Email marketers hate spam filters and blacklists, right? After all, they usually wind up blocking some legitimate marketing email. Well, not everybody, as this column by Matt Blumberg, the CEO of ReturnPath, indicates: 

Marketers need to understand what is happening across the vast communication network to which they belong.  You may have read that  the spam problem is getting worse. The numbers are so huge they numb the mind.

The spam problem is quickly becoming a very big deal.  Such a big  deal, in fact, that it threatens the viability of the channel.  As networks become overwhelmed with spam and viruses, they will become  increasingly unstable.

Moreover, the increase in phishing and other fraudulent e-mails erodes consumer confidence, threatening the effectiveness of legitimate e-mail. 

Exactly. There's something that Blumberg doesn't touch on, though: the problem isn't just what we can all agree is spam. It's also the "spam-lite" of unwanted email that comes from the online merchant who has decided to send uninteresting, too-frequent messages; the company that decided that when you placed an order, you were also asking for a weekly newsletter; or any of the many marketers who don't really understand that "personalized, useful" messages aren't just "things sent to your address that are useful to our company."

For an example, look at the telemarketers, who abused their ability to dial a customer's phone number to the point that legislation was needed to reign them in.

Marketers don't typically have a lot of restraint in this area. And so the same tragedy of the commons is playing out in the email world.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the link. That is a real problem, and one that I've written about elsewhere if not in this post. We are always harping on our clients to send less, but more relevant, email.

But as much of a problem as that is, the ISPs and filters and blacklists of the world would care much less about it if their networks weren't getting flooded by attacks that are 1000x or more the size of a few irrelevant emails to a controlled customer list!