The Change Direction Blog is about the joys, and practical impacts, of working from home online. It is about online businesses and techniques for internet marketing, traffic building. It is also about what it is like to work from home, working with family around, and all the practicial issues that arise on a day to day basis for someone working from home. Plus, an ex pat view of an English guy living in Palawan, a tropical paradise in the Philippines.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Is Email Dying?

Well, it's 2005, at least here in S E Asia. On the West Coast of the US I think it's still last year, but midnight cannot be far off. I must admit my thinking is not that clear today. That, of course, has nothing to do with the fact that it was New Year's Eve last night. That's no excuse. Our daughter Saffron, woken by the crescendo of fireworks after 11pm, stayed up almost as late as I did, and she's as bright as a sparkler right now. So, I have no real excuse.

Today I have been trying to get myself organised with verified opt-in mailing lists, in the context of launching my new newsletter: Making Your Online Business More Profitable. 2004 has really been a year when the whole subject of email and spam has been at the forefront of the minds of internet marketers.

The anti Spam legislation has had more than the desired effect. I think everyone hates spam, even spammers. I guess also that everyone hates spammers, except spammers, though they probably hate other spammers. An attempt by legislators in different countries to prevent the deluge of spam into Inboxes was to be expected. The spam itself had already spawned the spam filter industry, which has "flourished" this year. I put flourished in "" because flourishing gives the impression of health. Their balance sheets and profit and loss figures may be flourishing, but the email industry is not.

Spam filters were set up to prevent spam, not to kill perfectly genuine and good emails, from friends, lovers, publishers you have requested a newsletter from, or anybody else who is not "spamming" you. Some recent figures suggest a significant proportion of valid emails are not reaching their destination. Is that good? Is that what the legislation intended? No, it is it not.

People use filters in good faith, without, in most cases, having any idea how they work. They may be blissfully unaware that, in some cases, good email will not reach them. How much does that damage online business? How many business relationships are damaged by failure to respond to an email that was never received? How many personal relationships are damaged in the same way? Nobody knows. But if, for example, a marriage is on the rocks, one such incident could be the straw that broke the camel's back.

Internet marketers in particular have been covering the subject an enormous amount in the past year. Some are even saying that email is dying. Well, dying is surely an exaggeration, but it is increasingly difficult for internet marketers to get their message, even if requested, to the recipient. They comply, in most cases, with the legislation, but the self appointed Spam Police have their own ideas of what email people should receive. To me, that is far more annoying than spam itself. It is a form of censorship if it snuffs out email that people really wanted to receive.

Is spam as a problem exaggerated too? Well, I have no figures on that, but in my own case it has never been more than a minor irritation. I have 3 websites with different email addresses on, which can presumably be harvested for spam email lists. One of those websites has been there nearly 2 years. So is my Inbox filled with spam? No. I get a few, but it is a minor irritation. Maybe I'm lucky, I have no way of knowing.

I do know that the people I expect to hear from do get their emails to me, but I have no spam filters activated. I have just never found it necessary. One problem I have noticed, though, is nothing to do with spam filtering. Once most marketers legitimately get hold of your email address, they start sending far too many advertising only emails. Even if they start off with one or a series of helpful emails, which you may have requested, it soon deteriorates into an ad bombardment. Today, I opted out of the list of a well known internet guru for that very reason.

So, it is up to internet marketers to put their own house in order too. If they send out emails that people find useful, entertaining, reliable or profitable, on a consistent basis, people will look forward to their good content. They will take the extra steps necessary to ensure the emails they want get through to them. In most cases, adding to the address book or "approved" list will do just that. Who will want to "approve" an email address that sends nothing but ads when the expectation was, originally, useful content. I think the average person would accept a reasonable amount of advertising, if it is relevant and is a small % of the content.

I cannot foresee that email will die, even as a marketing tool. But it could be in need of surgery, and it is up to all of us to learn the surgical procedures.

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