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Sunday, November 27, 2005

Debate of the Week 9: SPAM!

Okay, here’s a controversial one. Spam, is it really that bad, or is it all much ado about nothing?

Here’s what I think.

First it is important to distinguish between spam and legitimate email marketing. Email marketing obeys laws, has full corporate disclosure linked to their emails, and is comparatively considerate when mailing the ads. Spam is roguish, skirts the laws and sometime breaks them, and will send the same indiscriminate ads over and over again in the same day. They also ignore requests to be removed from mailing lists, or leave opt-out links out entirely.

So, here is the dichotomy.

Spam is bad. It’s irritating, often vulgar, indiscriminate, and so many other bad words for business. True spammers have no qualms about sending porn ads to children, and even include the occasional “teaser” pic to lure people to their sites. True spammers ignore requests to opt out because they only care about mailing volume so they can make money no matter what. Worst of all, there is great deal of fraud, viruses, and phishing in true spam. All are serious crimes.

Email marketing on the other hand actually has many virtues. They obey all applicable laws. Allow automated opting out. They only mail the same product to the same email address once a day as a general rule. And many email marketing campaigns are actually part of opt-in listings anyway. They also never actively engage in fraud or theft.

However, both of these sales techniques have certain virtues.

1- Spam never rings the phone during dinner, family time, or intimate moments.

2- Spam is private. No one has to know that someone mailed you something offensive and embarrassing. I remember getting a mailer from Playboy magazine at my home when I was 14. I never asked for it. I had never bought porn. I was underage. Let’s just say it was very interesting explaining THAT one to my parents. As an adult I still receive the occasional objectionable mailer, and since my mailbox is down the block I have to walk all the way home with it so my neighbors can see what I got and think and say scandalous things about my character.

3- Spam is easy to dispose of. Just check the box and hit delete. No muss, no fuss.

4- Spam is environmentally friendly. No trees were killed to send you an electronic ad. No petroleum products were necessary to make the fancy packaging to hold the ads. It’s a tree-hugger’s dream.

5- Unlike the post office, UPS, or Fed-ex, your e-mail provider works diligently to filter out as much spam as possible, thereby stopping the bulk of unwanted electronic solicitations from ever cluttering up your mailbox.

So in a way, I’d actually rather deal with spam than with telemarketers or junk mail. Not that I don’t welcome phone solicitations from organizations I support or businesses I work with. And not that I mind getting those nifty coupon books and catalogues in the mail. But potentially objectionable stuff is just so much more pleasant to get via email so I can simply delete it in private.

Also, as a former telemarketer myself, and the brother of a legitimate email marketer (An opt-in guy, you will never hear from him unless you asked for it. Please don’t hate him, or me for being his brother.) I have an understanding and appreciation for the advertising and sales business that surpasses most people’s experience. I’m still not a fan of either form of irritation, I mean marketing, but the incredible aggression that is directed at these people is a bit much for my sensibilities.

What do you think?

11 Comments:

  • As long as it is just junk e-mail, I am ok with spam. But there is spam with viruses and spyware. The sources of viruses and spyware need be taken to task.

    By Blogger Rick's Corner, at 6:26 PM  

  • Very true.

    By Blogger Daniel Levesque, at 6:39 PM  

  • "So in a way, I’d actually rather deal with spam than with telemarketers or junk mail."

    People who distribute junk mail have to pay for it.
    With spam - you pay the bill (bandwith usage etc).
    Spam makes the Internet much more expensive than it should be.
    Bandwith and networking also means electricity usage so it is not so green at all.
    It also means time spent on sorting out spam from legit mail.
    It doesn't bother individuals all that much but if you have an e-mail address seriously exposed to the public...ouch.

    By Anonymous Felis, at 7:59 PM  

  • My job at home is dependent on targeted internet marketing- gathering emails of those who are looking to hire people.

    My family runs a business of having Job fairs in over 60 cities (we'll do almost 400 of them next year) all done from our house on the internet.

    I pay close attention to the spamming laws for any sort of clamps on our ability to market our job fairs would severly hurt our business!

    Perhaps you've gotten that email... and deleted it.

    By Blogger Peakah, at 8:22 PM  

  • "Perhaps you've gotten that email... and deleted it."

    Only if you work in Anchorage.

    Hmmm, must be nice to work out of home. That way you are always there when your family needs you.

    By Blogger Daniel Levesque, at 10:40 PM  

  • You raise a good point about no trees being killed for snail mail.
    I haven't noticed my phone ringing less though; I get about three calls a day that are tele-marketers but not real people. They are recordings trying to sell me something. I detest those.

    For the most part I detest spam over the internet which is why all uncolicited mail goes to a junk folder. One click and it's gone (when my e-mail is working properly, which it isn't right now!)I know people who have to sort through 75 or more e-mails per day to sort out the spam. And you can't tell which are legitimate and which are not, which is dangerous. Hackers sometimes send spam disguised as a message from Microsoft and if you open it your pc is toast.

    Nope: All considered, I find spam to be a nuisance at best and a threat at worst.

    By Blogger Gayle, at 5:49 AM  

  • spam doesn't bother me that much...nor do telemarketers..they're just doing a job to earn money...which is better than giving up & getting on welfare, if you ask me! i sometimes screw with 'em, though. when they're dumb enough to say 'how are you today, ma'am?' i say, well, lemme tell ya...and then i start to list every possible thing that could EVER be wrong in any person's life...go on long enough, & they hang up on you! voila!
    BoUnCeS!! LibbY!

    By Blogger Libby, at 8:55 AM  

  • Spam? What spam? I delete all the spam off the server with a separate program (ultrafunk.com) before I even load it. Takes 5 seconds.

    I have never responded to any spam, and can't see how it works, to be honest. I delete it all with not a single problem.

    By Blogger Phantom_Driver, USNR, Ret., at 1:48 PM  

  • You don't want to know what I think.. we have a whack of mail servers, and people that analyze spam, and submit for filter training everyday, so I'm biased the other way. In the corporate world productivity is everything. Spam is a negative in that scenario, and ends up costing the consumer in the long run with higher costs of sale and bandwidth as was mentioned above.

    By Blogger ABFreedom, at 5:17 PM  

  • AB Sorry, forgot that's what you do. Certainly, for corporations spam is a HUGE headache and one we can live without.

    How many Nigerian Schemes have you deleted in the past year? LOLOLOL

    (Send your money to me right now!)

    Hooah!

    By Blogger Phantom_Driver, USNR, Ret., at 8:29 PM  

  • ABFreedom,

    Excellent point there about the corporate issues with spam. I had completely overlooked those.

    Felis,

    I have considered what you said about spam not being green at all. And here is what I have concluded. Regular mail requires not only paper, petroleum products, glue, and dyes for the mail itself, it also requires gasoline, jet fuel (both shipment related), industrial power (production), manpower, fuel, machinery (logging) and a myriad of other activites that require far more of everything that the electricity required to send spam. Spam is definitely greener than junk mail.

    By Blogger Daniel Levesque, at 10:16 PM  

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