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eMarketer: E-mail marketing — the perils of spam

January 19, 2001

Will spam turn consumers away from e-mail marketing entirely? eMarketer senior analyst Jonathan Jackson reviews the current spam-marketing situation in the US

Spam: it's been around almost as long as e-mail. In the same way telemarketers quickly discovered nefarious uses for the telephone, unscrupulous direct marketers looked on the advent of e-mail as heaven sent. In a delicious blend of euphemism and acronym, the direct marketing industry has renamed spam UCE or unsolicited commercial e-mail. Junk by any other name will still clog your inbox.

At eMarketer we estimate that spam--that is UCE--accounts for 10% of total e-mail volume in the US.

By the end of this year, some 62.3bn spam messages will be washing up in our inboxes. That's an awful lot of e-mail.

The obvious downside to all this is that it detracts from the efforts of legitimate e-mail marketers. As access to the Internet expands and the number of users grows steadily, the prospects for successful e-mail marketing are virtually unlimited. How tragic it would be if a whole generation of consumers are dissuaded from the advantages of e-mail marketing because of initial bad experiences with spam.

There may be hope, however. Although the absolute number of spam messages is expected to increase, spam will decline as a percentage of commercial messages and total e-mail received.

A number of factors will work in the honest e-mail marketer's favour. First, technology is being marshalled to curtail spam. E-mail providers such as Yahoo! have provided optional spam blockers and created "bulk mail" boxes to shunt UCE away from the inbox. Moreover, consumers have gotten sick and tired of all the spam and decided to fight back. Any consumer can now report spam to an ISP and often quick action is taken. Perhaps most importantly, responsible e-mail marketers have veered heavily towards opt-in vehicles.

On the legal front, resentment against spam has been building for years and lately the tide has been turning against the spammers. The Federal Trade Commission has launched Project Mailbox IV, which is a co-ordinated effort among state and federal agencies to crack down on spam. In addition, a slew of legislation has been introduced that would make it a federal crime to spam. And most recently, two men were sentenced to prison for sending out 50m spam messages. Great! Now when can we lock up the bad telemarketers?

Source: Republished by the EIU ebusiness forum with the permission of eMarketer.

Jonathan Jackson,


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