'White Collar' Spammers

There’s a good story today on the front page of The New York Times about how otherwise reputable companies become ‘white collar’ spammers by purchasing and using lists of consumers’ e-mail addresses. If you’ve provided your persona demographic information and registered to use the NYTimes.com Web site, you can read the story (the story is the text that appears to the far left of the giant banner ad and briefly beneath the animated banner ad).

The companies of course insist that every such incident is an analomy, claiming that just because the e-mail addressees never actually gave their company permission to e-mail marketing material doesn’t mean the unsolicited marketing material send is unsolicited marketing material.

The Times quotes New Medium marketing expert as saying that such companies stretch users’ consent beyond any recognition. “The people who are talking about permission marketing are almost entirely doing it wrong,” Mr. Godin said. “Greed and avarice drove people to wreck the system.”

Meanwhile, today’s Internet Advertising Report says that U.S. Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert might bring the U.S. Senate’s ‘Can Spam Act’ to a full vote in the House this week. The Senate last week, by a vote of 97-0, approvate legislation that would requires bulk commercial e-mailers to include opt-out provisions and valid header and subject lines or else face civil and criminal penalties. The Senate provisions would still allow bulk commercial e-mailers to use purchased lists of consumers who’ve requested commercial information about other things, which is the ‘White Collar Spam’ that The Times story today reports.

Last year, we lost the business of a newspaper that wanted to sell to e-mail marketers its e-mail publishing subscriber lists and wanted to begin publishing e-mails to people who didn’t request its news e-mails. We refused to cooperate. We won’t disclose which newspaper this is, but it’s among the the largest in the U.S. We say shame on it for spamming. Its editorial pages decry spam, but its own marketing executives are shameless spammers.

Never mass send commercial e-mails to anyone who didn’t explicitly request to receive them from you. If you instead do so, you hurt your customers, your reputation, and your future marketing if you do so.