Do Anti-$pam Activists Have A Hidden Agenda?


By Eddy Marin

Where The Profits Lurk

We all know the dot com boom is long over---virtual companies of all ilks have failed and faded---leaving in their wake a myriad of continuing cyber-related trials & tribulations. Tier One providers---the large, often multi-national communication conglomerates that actually lay and own the fiber-optic cable that powers the Internet---such as Worldcom, Adelphia and Qwest are splashing in a deepening sea of red ink and bankruptcies.

The largest subscriber based access provider, America Online (AOL/Time Warner), struggles to improve a bottom line weakened by a questionable merger and a dwindling user base. Large online retailers such as grab headlines just by making a profit! With such well-publicized cyber gloom is anyone really profiting via the Internet? The answer: Savvy marketers that utilize email as their marketing tool---as well as those opposed to it's use---have created two rapidly growing, but albeit combative, profit niches.

Marketing Metamorphosis

Email marketing is on the cusp of the dynamic changes now affecting the long established bastion of direct marketing. Never has the direct marketing industry faced changes as dynamic as those imposed by email marketing. This burgeoning electronic marketing tool is serving both as catalyst for a new breed of market makers as well as spawning a host of new support and allied industries.

In recent decades the likes of paper shortages, postage increases and mandated size changes along with inflation & technology driven increases in print production and mailing house costs, have caused significant direct marketing change. But nothing in direct marketing's profitable history compares to the metamorphosis spawned by email marketing. The near term and extended, potential of this Johnny-Come-Lately direct marketing tool is so robust that it will greatly affect the direct marketing process from creation to response---that is already building an entire pro & con industry of its own!

Why Email?

Emails are demographically targeted, faster to deliver, economically friendlier, far more measurable and very often more productive then anything in print. Ink on paper just can't duplicate the "point & click" intangible of email to build revenues---once a recipient is linked to the marketers website, an order can be immediately accepted and payment processed. And, best of all email performs for a fraction of the cost of traditional direct marketing, including creation of the actual campaign---all of which enable small direct marketers to compete alongside the big guys!

Email campaigns are priced on a per email basis. Included in the price is an email record to which the ad is delivered, the actual delivery of the email and the use of the mailing company's tracking software to track the campaign. Cost per email, which can increase as the selectivity of the recipient becomes more specific, is relatively small----counted in pennies or usually even less. But compared to traditional direct mail, email marketing doesn't consume anything but time---paper, ink and stress on the environment are saved. So, it isn't unusual for email fulfillment houses to "remail" a campaign if the original results aren't as perceived. In fact, emailing a quantity far larger then originally ordered is considered business as usual. What printer/snail mail mailing house or, combination of the two, is going to give, in essence, a "free" mailing?

Direct marketers can't expect ink & paper to continuously compete with an email campaign that reaches the world in a day. Plus, email is far more measurable then traditional direct mail. Software allows every individual email marketing campaign to be tracked in "real time" and generates critical data not easily available with "snail
mail." Email marketers spend less, reach their markets more frequently and reach campaign profitability at far lower expenditures---allowing far more marketing on much smaller budgets. What direct marketer can ask for anything more?


Profits aside, everything isn't as rosy as should be in the cyberland of email marketing. While, in actuality it's part of the direct marketing industry---there's an oppositional industry within the sector---outwardly intent on destroying its future. The "antis"---those openly opposed to email marketing---use the elimination of "spam" as their personal right to police and control email marketing and marketers. Acting as both judge & jury they use every tool within their grasp to force email marketers to adhere to their strict belief in "opt-in" mailings only.

In industry jargon those that have chosen to receive email solicitations have "opted-in" or agreed to accept email ads for products or services according to preferences as listed at their point of opting-in; while those that "opt-out" have requested not to receive such solicitations. Any unsolicited email is, of course, "spam"---to which the "antis" are vehemently opposed.

Self-appointed spam-exterminators---that operate without a legitimate mandate---such as Spamhaus, Spews and Spamcop, utilize guerilla tactics to block the electronic transmission and Internet communications of American citizens and businesses. Most damaging is their "black list" of Internet Protocol addresses that knowingly mixes legitimate email marketers with those that rely solely on spam---hurting those that should be left unencumbered of the expense and effort to rectify their respective positions in the online community. Concurrently, as they wrong honest enterprises, the "antis" are rapidly growing their revenues for anti-spam products and services---often benefiting via the use of email marketing the very ad carrier they eschew!

What the "antis" fail to grasp is that the "opting" decision is not a universal one-time process. That decision is thrust at all of us again, and again, and again---and it doesn't even have to occur online! To avoid "opting in" one has to be constantly on their tippy toes---which is one reason why preventing unsolicited emails is almost impossible. So, believe it or not, at the same time direct marketers are free to stuff our "snail mail" boxes with an unlimited myriad of paper junk at their will, a virtual electronic ad is unacceptable, unless the recipient has given permission to receive that mail.

Just because you, personally, aren't generating an online response doesn't refute the fact that a vast amount of others are pointing & clicking and buying as a result of an email---including spam messages! The noise from the "antis" is all about the time, cost and annoyance of handling the growing amount of unsolicited emails. Never do they venture into the world of traditional direct marketing and tackle identical issues that have plagued consumers for decades. But, why should they? They haven't found a way to profit from "land spam!"

The Spam War Gets Dicey

Almost unnoticed amid all the public email hoopla is the extremely lucrative anti-spam industry that flourishes in the shadow of headlines and black lists generated by the "antis." So large are the revenues---and presumably the profits too---one has to wonder if anyone really wants spam eliminated? What's good for the goose is apparently good for the gander. But their goose seems to be laying golden eggs---are they really trying to kill it?

Jonathon Berr, in a May 2003 article released by Bloomberg News, states the projected sales of anti-spam software & services at $653 million for this year. More interesting is the prediction of hitting $2.4 billion in 2007! The very fact that revenue projections for anti-spam related products exist four years in the future are tantamount to conceding that spam won't, or can't, be eliminated in the financially projectable future.

Those working on anti-spam devices range from garage tinkerers to multi-national conglomerates. All of whom its assumed are in a frantic search of the elusive100%
effective spam-blocker---and the millions that will follow in the path of that patent. At the same time, of course, the email marketing industry is redoubling its efforts to get
email delivered---including work-arounds for everything thrown in it's cyber path thereby spawning additional revenues for the anti-products. Will this spiral ever stop? Do the "antis" really want it to?

For the record---just in case your incoming mail doesn't serve as proof that the "antis" utilize email marketing---they too have their fair share of spammers. Some savvy anti-spam marketers even purchase "opt out" email lists because such recipients are viewed as good potential anti-spam merchandise buyers!

The "antis" are well funded---who possesses those deep pockets isn't known---and fight a guerilla war. But what's their real intent? With every headline grabbed, emailer
"blacklisted" or "email blocked," the demand for their anti-products only grows. With such huge revenues available it almost seems as if the anti-movement is a secretly cloaked marketing cooperative.


The direct marketing industry---from designer to pressman and from mailman to emailer---is a gigantic business. It's an industry that spends and pumps huge sums into our economy for everything from copy & photography to binding & postage. Direct marketers and it's allied support companies continually buy expensive equipment and technology and create millions of jobs.

Take a moment and imagine the existence of "anti" snail- mail marketing organizations employing anti-spam type guerilla tactics against the traditional direct marketing industry. Would they get away with publishing "black lists" of paper mills that sold paper to direct marketers and their printers? Should they have a legal right to prevent printers from producing marketing materials delivered via the USPS? Can fifty states, and the Federal Government, enact legislation holding direct marketers liable for errant ink on paper mailings? Can members of the Direct Marketing Association---the industry's largest advocate group---have its snail mail blocked and mailings sent to massive catalog graveyards? Could "antis" create a monster national "opt-out" database to stop land based direct mail?

Sound crazy? But it's exactly what's happening to the email marketing industry. Anti-supporters beware: By endangering the use of email marketing the direct marketing industry along with our economy are at serious risk. Doesn't arguing over deleting emails seem dumber than fighting over which end of the egg to crack?

Spammers Beware?

Over thirty states have anti-spam laws on their books---most which are probably unenforceable. Now the Senate is about to debate national legislation. But what exactly is a "spammer?" How are legitimate email marketers to be left unmolested? And what about laws that hold the "antis" accountable for their deplorable actions? All the facts must be tossed into the national spam debate. This includes the revenue generation of the "antis" and the hidden funders of their cause which actually drive their growing profits.

To date most of the email headlines---and open government forums---have pictured the "antis" as saviors of the Internet. But, lately---after South Florida based recently fired the first volley in return the marketing side has stepped forward. Yes, no one likes spam. But from where I sit mouse in hand, I would prefer every piece of "junk mail,"--- "spam" or whatever you'd like to call it---intended for my eyes to arrive in my email box rather than my land mailbox. It's just so much easier to point & click away the virtual than to throw out the reality. But the "antis" don't have the same view. There is just no noise about eliminating unsolicited "land spam." Their energies are focused on email ads because, let's face it, it is to their financial gain!


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