Is SPAM an obsolete concept?

Bizreport published findings from a Q Interactive / Marketing Sherpa report today that show that the general public view of what spam is poles apart from the accepted technical definition of spam. Apparently email users tend to mark anything that they don’t want to receive any more as spam, however the strict technical definition of spam is UCE or Unsolicited Commercial Email (i.e. email that you didn’t ask for).

I believe that one of the major reasons that users treat everything as spam is that they have been educated to not use the unsubscribe link in marketing emails, even they may know and trust the sender. So in order to stop receiving emails they have no alternative but to put you on their spam block list.

Our experience with the eComMetrix® Email Marketing service that we run is that users are using the “spam” button in their email client to effectively unsubscribe from emails that they don’t want to receive any more.

With eComMetrix®, we participate in the Hotmail Junk Mail Reporting service which notifies us when a user has marked one of our clients emails as spam. In 99% of cases the messages that are reported in Hotmail as spam were signed up for. It shows that many users do not discriminate between real spam and emails that they just don’t want anymore.

We support the idea of developing an Email Service Provider Opt Out Standard that could be supported by the developers of email clients (i.e. Microsoft Outlook). Your email client could replace the “report spam” button with two new options that represent the following two separate concepts:

  1. I didn’t ask for this (spam / hard response)
  2. I don’t want it anymore (opt out / soft response)

Only genuine providers would be able to participate in such a program and such a program could be used to enhance the email system’s reputation with internet and anti-spam service providers. To really succeed a program like this would need to have the backing of Microsoft, who like it or not handle most of the worlds email in some way.

To combat email overload lately I’ve been unsubscribing from lots of email newsletters. I’ve noticed that every email provider seems to have a different way of handing an opt out request. Many of them make it particularly hard to get off the list. I can tell you from experience that a simple one click standardised opt out system is long overdue!

If it was implemented well such a system would be a real positive for email marketers and email users alike.

About Mark Standeven

I run a boutique web design and web marketing business located in Melbourne Australia and we specialise in helping small to medium sized businesses with their online marketing. Call us to discuss your needs today on 03 9012 6600.

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