Last column, I laid out a plan to help solve the junk email problem. As expected, my mailbox was overflowing. Some who contacted me said some software already does this. Granted, bits and pieces do exist, but no industrywide approach or standards wherein the email recipient controls the spam process have been adopted.
I’m happy to report no serious holes have yet been poked in the concept of Email Power to the People. So I’ll plow ahead with an analysis of groups that would be affected by this plan and how I think they’d react.
Though some don’t like the prospect of having to spend time setting up their own personal blocking preferences, most embrace the notion of having power over which messages they accept and which they reject. Almost all agreed this will work and is the way they want to deal with their email. Many especially like the idea of being able to choose from a palette of spam-blocking options rather than be told they have only one option. People don’t want to be dictated to by ISPs and others, even when these groups have the best of intentions.
Recipients would have to put some initial effort into setting initial preferences, but we’re not talking about much time. As each unflagged message comes in, a few mouse clicks result in assigning the proper “accept” or “reject” flag.
For recipients: very little work, total control, and reduced spam.
ISPs, Web Hosts
Level 3 and ISPs bear the heaviest spam burden, resulting in a variety of problems. Server slowdowns and downtime, dedication of human bandwidth to deal with possible spammers, and lost revenue when clients are turned off are but a few. The result is a knee-jerk reaction: cut off or filter emailers first; ask questions later (or, in many cases, don’t).
I expect this group would be thrilled with Email Power to the People. It places most of the burden on recipients, where it belongs. As long as an ISP makes the software available, it’s essentially out of the loop. It can block flagged email all day, and no one will complain! Although there are some implementation costs, the benefits and savings from dealing with fewer spam complaints are well worth it. Several companies are designing products for ISP installation. People out there are thinking along the same lines.
Online Service Providers
The AOLs of the world should embrace this plan because their subscribers pay for email delivery. I can’t begin to imagine, with millions of customers, how much mail goes into AOL’s black hole each day. This plan will result in a significant reduction of spam and the internal resources required to deal with it.
Email Service Bureaus
These companies also waste plenty of human and technical bandwidth dealing with spam, making them another major beneficiary of the plan. I think they’d install the back-end system for their clients in a heartbeat. There’s no downside.
Email Power to the People might put these guys out of business. If that happens, we’ll have to conclude though their intentions were good, they acted like Big Brother and exacerbated the problem. They temporarily had too much power and probably forced legitimate companies out of business. Although misguided, their actions helped push us to find a solution.
Corporate Email Managers
Instead of spending time installing and managing filters and blockers, corporate email managers could install this system’s software once, then let employees flag email as acceptable or not. Corporations could also overlay their own set of rules — it’s perfectly acceptable for employers to ban porn, gambling, and so forth. They can’t stop all non-work-related emails, but they can certainly make a dent.
Responsible Email Marketers
Marketers who “do everything right” will find their emails get through to their best prospects and are blocked by their worst. They will love this because effective CPMs and return on investment (ROI) will jump. More important, legitimate email marketers want to know who does and does not want their promotions; this system will do just that.
A high percentage of people will flag their emails as rejects, thus blocking large amounts of true spam. Spammers who have enjoyed sending 20 million emails to produce 10 orders will face lawsuits from people who specifically requested them to stop. There will be hard evidence. Spammers will reform or perish.
People who swap then abuse email lists will wake up one morning to find most of the addresses are worthless.
List Managers and Brokers
Many list managers and brokers have soured on email after seeing their reputations tarnished by the shenanigans commonplace in the industry. They would love to clean up the situation so they can go back to doing their jobs.
These are the people who use bots to harvest email addresses randomly from the Internet, then sell them cheaply, such as 10 million fresh names for $49.95. Anyone who mails to these lists will find so many addresses blocked, they’ll lose even that small amount of money. Bulk harvesters will go by the wayside.
Does this make sense to you? Do you agree with the plan, its potential and ramifications? If you’re serious about doing something, email me with ideas on implementing Email Power to the People.
Implementing a standardized approach industrywide is a major undertaking. Here’s what I believe needs to be done to make it happen: Some big companies, including ISPs, must embrace this plan now (or a modified version of it). We need congressional support and volunteers to draft it and sell the concept to the big players. The government should love it, as it won’t require taxpayers’ money. Finally, we need to get the media behind the concept.
Let me know your ideas — and keep on reading!
Please join us at ClickZ Email Strategies in San Francisco, November 18-19.
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