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Bad News -- Spam Pays 21 February 2002 Edition
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Million $ Ideas
At last, the contents of Aardvark's "million-dollar ideas" notebook are revealed for all to see!
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A local company recently asked me whether they should use bulk email to (spam or UCE) promote their products and services.

Naturally I said "no way" -- but that wasn't the answer they wanted to hear.

I pointed out the risks and dangers associated with using spam -- at best they'd be totally ignored, at worst they could damage the reputation of their business, lose their ISP connection and waste a lot of time fending off angry complaints and threats from the anti-spam brigade.

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Unfortunately, despite my best efforts to talk them out of it -- they decided that the benefits might just be worth the risks.

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  • Shell Shocked... - Steve
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    Now, since there was no way I could stop this folly, I decided to see just what would happen when they sent out several thousand unsolicited emails to mainly .nz addresses.

    The results of their spam-run were related to me with some glee by the company's managing director.

    • 33% of the emails bounced
    • 66% of the emails were read (a small embedded graphic "web-bug" was used to monitor this).
    • 3% visited the spammer's website
    • 1.6% responded to the "unsubscribe" option
    • 1% generated automated responses ("I'm on holiday" etc)
    • 0.1% purchased a product or service
    What does this tell us?

    Well, most amazing to me was the fact that only one person actually kicked up a fuss about receiving the spam. What makes this even more incredible is that the targets for this spam-run were likely to be quite IT/Net aware individuals.

    Based on these figures, can we assume therefore that the public has come to accept spam as just another part of life on the Net?

    I sure hope not.

    There are probably several reasons that the company concerned got away with this spam-run:

    • The targeting was fairly good. The company had trawled the Web for email addresses at companies which were a pretty good fit with the products and services they were promoting. Unfortunately this was done quite some time ago -- which probably explains the high number of bounces.
    • The offer wasn't another "get rich quick" scam like those which fill our mailboxes every day promising us immense wealth without effort. It was a "newsletter" that offered some useful information along with the sales pitch.
    • The email came from what is considered to be a bona-fide company which was probably known to many of the recipients.
    However, here I am with egg all over my face.

    They spammed and the sky didn't fall.

    For the investment of just a bit of time and daring they racked up several hundred dollars worth of sales and expect that, with the new clients they now have, this will represent several thousand dollars during the course of the next 12 months.

    Does this mean that I think spam is acceptable now?

    No way!

    This company was exceedingly lucky and perhaps the combination of targeting, having a good product, and bundling useful information meant that it didn't quite rate as spam in many people's minds -- but from where I stand it was still: email, unsolicited, and commercial (ie: spam!)

    Goodness knows I already receive far too many "newsletters" that spammers have decided it would be in my interest to receive. If I want their stinking "newsletter" then I'll subscribe -- otherwise, don't bother me with your spam!

    I really had to think hard about publishing these figures because the last thing I want to do is have a bunch of morons thinking that, just because one company got away with it, they can too.

    The bad news is that, so long as people keep responding to spam by buying a spammer's products and services, the spam will keep coming.

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