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December 18, 2006

Will Goodmail Make Friends in the UK?

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Um, no.

Precision Marketing (via TW) reports that the geniuses behind AOL and Yahoo’s Goodmail campaign will launch a similar "paid-for" email venture in the United Kingdom. That would be awesome had, you know, the system actually worked in the States or gotten any kind of backing whatsoever. But it didn’t. So why would it be adopted in the UK?

The perceived idea behind these pay-to-send email systems is that charging emailers a small fee to send a piece of mail will deter the spammy mass mailers from overloading your inbox. The problem is that it doesn’t. I know, it’s shocking, but spammers aren’t going to stop emailing you simply because others are willing to pay an admission fee. They’re simply going to get smarter about it.

My problem with these paid-for email services is that they try and mask the problem instead of fixing it. Instead of email service providers putting their efforts into fighting spam, they’re more apt to charge companies to fight the war for them. There are so many problems with this. In my eyes, ESPs who adopt this system are selling out their customers.

First of all, it’s self-serving. It gives ESPs no incentive to better their spam detecting techniques. By working to fight spam they would actually be taking money out of their own pockets. This system puts it in their best financial interests to provide a weaker service. Why would anyone support that? The email that makes it into your inbox should be there based on your ESPs ability to trust the sender, not because they paid for it. Email is not pay per click.

Second, paid-for email will act as an obstacle for nonprofits and small businesses who can’t afford to pay for every piece of email they send. That’s why lots of companies send email – because it’s free and print mailings costs money. There’s something very wrong about asking honest companies to use their marketing budgets to cover their email costs simply because ESPs aren’t improving spam filters as fast as spammers are learning to get past them. It’s almost backwards.

Advocates of Goodmail (read: those that stand to make money off it) say the system will manage mail in a way that will make it "easy" for recipients to complain about spammy messages. They also add that if there are too many complaints, the sender will lose their Goodmail account.

Until they create a new one?

The jaded email reader in me believes that spammers will go through Goodmail accounts like they go through servers and IPs today. This doesn’t solve the problem; it’s putting a non-waterproof band-aid on it that will fall off at the first sign of contact. It’s good for those who stand to make a lot of money off it, but it’s bad for setting email standards.

And for the record, (despite what Susan may tell you) I don’t like complaining. I don’t want to have to grumble about the amount of spam in my email. I’d rather it just not be there in the first place. By legitimizing spam it’s basically giving up on the fight to abolish it.

If you’re looking for a way to put trust back in your inbox, we at Bruce Clay recommend the 1st Certified email system. It’s free to download and each time you use it the company makes a digital fingerprint that will certify that email address later one. Better yet, each time you click on an email from an advertiser, 20 percent of the revenue from that click is donated to charity of your choice. You can’t get much better than that.

We can all admit that spam isn’t going to disappear any time soon, but that doesn’t mean we should sit back and watch it take over our inbox. The way to combat spam is to actually try and combat spam. It’s not to make people pay to get around it. That idea didn’t fly in the US, and I don’t think it’s going to be well received in the UK.

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