Tuesday, August 5, 2008

CertifiedMail is Marketing BS

An anonymous poster recently responded to my posts on Goodmail. He/She wrote

What is it about CertifiedEmail that upsets you so much? The way it makes it impossible for a sender to spoof identity? Or maybe you are upset that there finally accountability for senders who blast messages to inboxes uncontrollably? Consider for a moment that Goodmail is probably the most exclusive email program going today, and its users have to adhere to extremely low complaint thresholds. So while marketers and others are sharing some of their email-generated profits with the ISPs (read: offsetting the high costs of email infrastructure that YOU the recipient pay for), Goodmail is making the internet a much better place.

Rather than carry on a conversation in the comments section, I thought that I'd post my response as a new blog post.

I reject the assumptions in the commentors' question. Giving the practice a pretty name like Goodmail or CertifiedMail doesn't make it good, and who is doing the certifying anyway? Along the same vein, "Adhering to low compliant thresholds" is a meaningless statement. Goodmail may not allow deposed princes from Uganda looking to tranfer millions into your bank account through their system, but the email that they traffick in is still unwanted. Across the board people don't generally take the time flagging email as spam, so high "compliance" whatever that means is just a load of PR spin. I also take issue with your statement "offsetting the high costs of email infrastructure that YOU the recipient pay for". There are plenty of free email providers that don't use services like Goodmail. Rhetoric is cheap. There should be other ways developed to prevent email spoofing and inbox blasting.

So despite the fact that I reject your assumptions, I will still try to answer your direct question. However, read the articles hyperlinked in my last post on the topic, they articulate it better than I. Here's the short version: there are two things about Goodmail and its ilk that I don't like:
  1. Assuming that all Spam is bad, ISPs are complicit in filling my inbox with unwanted content. Yahoo, AOL etc tell me that they provide SPAM filters, yet they selectively disable them for certain parties.
  2. If you believe that spam is a legitimate form of marketing (I do not), allowing some paying customers to have access to my inbox over and above other is a blatant violation of net neutrality. SPAM should have the same barriers to access for all purveyors. Should a legitimate small business owner not be able to send out a catalog over postal mail because they can't pay the fees that LL Bean pays?
This hypothetical on Slashdot sums it up:
If I could ask one serious question of anyone who was defending pay-per-email, or sitting on the fence about it, this would be it: Suppose you sent an extremely urgent e-mail to your doctor or your lawyer, who for the sake of argument you're not able to reach by phone. The recipient's ISP owner happens to see the message before the user retrieves it, and realizes how urgently you need to get it through. So he moves it to the recipient's "spam" folder, and then calls you up and says: pay me $1,000 to move it to the recipient's inbox, or they'll never see it.
Read the full article for the rest of his argument.

Bottom line. Spam sucks and I wish we didn't have to deal with it. But getting rid of most of it at the expense of net neutrality or legitimate email being blocked or delays is simply unacceptable.

Sorry if I babbled a bit here. I feel pretty passionately about this, and I wrote this off the cuff while trying to get back to my day job.


Just another email marketer said...

I'm not that original commented but being an email marketer I'm compelled to speak up.

"Assuming that all Spam is bad" -- Well lets define what Spam means.
Depending on the person spam could mean:

a) All marketing emails - including emails from companies you may have subscribed to/have relationships with.
b) Unsolicited marketing emails.
c) Unsolicited and untargetted bulk marketing emails usually from unknown senders.

I think the reason most people have a beef with Goodmail is due to a knee-jerk reaction to the concept of "commercial email". Why? Well probably because 99% of the commercial email we receive is of the 3rd kind (untargetted bulk marketing from unknown senders). I think we can all agree that this IS Spam and this IS bad and if ISPs take a kick back from this kind of emails, it would be unconscionable.

Occasionally we'd receive commercial emails from companies/people that we do business with, but we have not given permission to be contacted with commercial email offers. I don't blame you if you consider this spam as it definitely is bad email practice not to obtain permission first.

However, the key to CertifiedEmail, is to have a program that specifically gives senders who practice permissioned email practices some sort of a method to distinguish themselves in an inbox that is riddled with Spam. Since these senders practice permissioned email practices, the recipient would be looking forward to receiving this messages and it would be a benefit to both parties.

Nevertheless, if you are a person who have not given any companies to send you marketig emails, I can understand why you'd label all marketing emails as Spam - as the kinds of commercial emails you'd be getting would BE the ones all of us can agree is Spam an is BAD.

I hope that perhaps you could give your thoughts on Goodmail or its competitor Sender Score when it comes to certifying senders who are sending legitimate permissioned emails. You know, emails that your Aunty Sal might have subscribed to, to get those weekly newsletters from Bloomingdales.

cg said...

Interesting points. I'll keep them in mind in future posts on this subject. My feeling is that unless I subscribe to something, I don't want marketing emails, even from companies that I have done business with in the past.

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