Monday, December 08, 2008

Spam thoughts as we near the end of 2008 by Ryan Pitylak

An interesting thread circulating the internet over the past few months has been about how a significant chunk of spam stopped once a colo was shut down. What was also interesting, and equally predictable, was how the email started back up again over time.

The economics of spam is interesting. Spammers will move to the email delivery source that will provide them with the most profit, regardless of the "externalities" of this decision. So, it's not surprising that a cluster of spammers were spamming from one colo ("McColo").

Ultimately, shutting down a major spam friendly colo makes the costs to the spammers go up (at least in the short term) as they find less attractive solutions. The only way to truely stop spam (the truely unsolicited email) is to make the economics of it unattractive. A combination of really good spam filters, expensive delivery costs, and low user participation (the liklihood someone will click on the email) will cause this to happen. However, spam filters are pretty good these days, delivery costs are going up in the U.S., and user participation is not going to change that much over time. This ultimately pushes spammers offshore, which lowers deliverability, as email from outside the U.S. is trusted less by spam filters. All of these actions increase the costs to spam. This means that to equal things back out, other costs need to be lowered. Examples of this include sending out high volumes of email, without any focus on deliverability. By the sheer number of emails delivered, some will get through the filters. This creates an extremely "dirty" email, as it has no personalization. I don't know if you've noticed, but spam, which has largely been moved offshore, has gotten "dirtier" over time.

One solution many have turned to is "opt-in" spam. Effectively, email marketers get people to sign up for their emails. However, in my opinion, permission to send me email doesn't mean you can send me several emails a day about whatever you want. In some cases, I've seen marketers (in this case, I'll go so far as to say spammers) send out ten's of emails a day. That really adds up. This loophole in the CANSPAM law is a bit of a problem, but closing it creates problems for big business, which is bad. Some additional thought around legislation should be considered.

Ryan Pitylak is an anti-spam activist.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Using Disposable Email Addresses

I wrote a post at OtherInbox about how using disposable email addresses can help you to protect yourself from spam. It's a great concept, because you actually have the power to finally stop spam, for the first time ever. It works like this:

When I sign up for an email address at amazon, I use If amazon ever starts to send me spam, I know exactly where it came from. This obviously becomes really useful if you sign up for a free ipod offer. You may receive email about a 1,000 other offers unrelated to the free ipod; now you'll know which companies you shared your email addresses with are sharing your email address.

Novel idea, huh? Well, this is definitely a great approach to stopping spam.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Ryan Pitylak Marketing Blog: Bluetooth + Cellphone + Popcorn ?= Viral

Ryan Pitylak Marketing Blog: Bluetooth + Cellphone + Popcorn ?= Viral

Viral Marketing is turning interesting. A recent post on my marketing blog explains how bluetooth maker created a popcorn ad that hit upon the fears of cellphone users. Are you telling me you've never been afraid of your brain frying from cellphone usage? Well, if it can fry popcorn, it can surely fry your brain. Or, at least that's the message the ad is trying to convey. It's a great stunt to catch the attention of the consumer, and considering the spread of the video, it worked really well.

Ryan performs writes about marketing for consumer companies.

Monday, June 02, 2008

700,000 Mobile Phone "Do Not Spam" Registrations by Ryan Pitylak

Monsters and Commerce wrote about how 700,000 mobile phone users in Hong Kong have signed up for a "do not spam" mobile phone registrar. That's definitely an interesting idea, because it's seemed to work pretty well here in the United States.

"Since then 3,064 people in the city of 6.9 million have registered complaints with the Office of Telecommunications Authority about unsolicited calls. Of those, 2,091 related to faxes, 439 emails and the rest were SMS and pre-recorded messages, and others."

What's interesting to me is this: do the 439 emails that people complained about fall under this "do not spam" regulation? If so, companies who are sending out emails to members, assuming they're not restricted to any "do not spam" mobile phone registrar, might run into trouble if they did not realize the email messages were being delivered to the mobile phone device.

As email permeates into many different devices, a way to comply with all of the relevant laws will need to be addressed. A third-party service that specializes in email delivery would probably be the best way to stay compliant.

Ryan Pitylak is an anti-spam activist.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Consumer perception of spam,

MarketingSherpa and Q Interactive worked together to learn more about how consumers perceive spam. They wanted to know what people thought about spam and what people considered spam.

56% of e-mail users regard marketing e-mails as spam. If they just don't find the messages interesting, they mark it as spam. This is a strikingly high number when you think about it.

The example used in the industry is Victoria Secret. They have a brand that will only send you email if you've provided them with permission to send it to you (we would hope). However, many people mark their emails as spam for a variety of reasons. Firstly, you may order a nice gift for your loved one, and later find yourself on the Victoria Secret mailing list. We've all been in this position with one company or another. So, is it spam? I didn't really want it, and it's not really what I want to see on a Tuesday at 10AM. But, according to their policy, which I did accept, they have permission to send me email.

So, it's not surprising when so much legitimate email marketing is marked as spam. It's also not surprising that some of these people actually feel like this is spam, and that the company sending the email should have penalties for sending them the email they previously requested.

I personally think that a move we need to make is to ensure that companies are up-front about their intentions of sending them emails after the order is placed. A simple "accept my privacy policy" check box can be placed on the order form.

Ryan Pitylak can help you think through these issues if you'd like.