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Wired editor has enough spam!

Seth Godin links to a post up over on The Long Tail about spammers who send PR mail to Chris Anderson, an editor at wired. Apparently lots of people send automated email to the editor of Wired hawking their latest and greatest product, service or photos.

In response to this overwhelming amount of mail, Chris has instituted a new email acceptance policy. He says

So fair warning: I only want two kinds of email: those from people I know, and those from people who have taken the time to find out what I’m interested in and composed a note meant to appeal to that (I love those emails; indeed, that’s why my email address is public).

He then publishes a (fairly long) list of email addresses who have violated this policy in the last 30 days. Many of those addresses are ones I recognize, others appear to be the result of blowback.

Even more interesting is the discussion in the comments. It seems that some people recognized their email addresses on the list that Chris published and were unhappy. Dan says

So, I’m on this list. dan at onewordphotography.com. I’m a freelance photographer in Canada and I shoot a lot of travel stock. I have your email address and 7000 others by buying a list of what they call “image buyers” from a company called Agency Access. They tell me they get these lists by compiling them from questionnaires etc at trade shows and industry events.

Now, over the years, I have tried calling many of my intended targets but, when your market is magazine and book publishers all over the world and you have 7 to 10000 potential targets this can get expensive and impossibly time consuming. As well, the vast majority of creative buyers don’t even bother returning your phone call. I’ve tried individual emails which gets an even lower response. So, I started sending out stock list updates via a mass emailing and the response has been nothing short of phenomenal. [...] The bottom line is, as a single entity operating a creative business, marketing to potential buyers is necessary, time consuming, expensive and difficult to do on an individual basis. As well, when the “broad brush” (okay, I’ll call it spam) approach works as well as it does for me, it makes sense to keep doing it.

I spent $10,000 this year on lists, email software, promotional cards etc. to promote my business and my work. You’re on a list of people who buy creative work that is sold to photographers every day. If you don’t really buy photography, why not just hit the unsubscribe button? Why give out your email? I get about 150 emails a day and travel 200+ days a year which makes it very difficult to get back to everyone after sorting through the spam I get but, it’s an unfortunate part of the business and I unsubscribe to stuff that does not appeal to me. [...]

Chris follows up to that comment explaining that no, he never did sign up. As you read through the comments there is discussion about convenience and costs and who should not have to pay, or work, to advertise effectively.

To my mind it is a much more interesting discussion than happens on many of the anti-spam mailing lists, because a) the senders are getting a voice and b) there is not as much dogma about what is and is not acceptable.

Is what Chris is doing acceptable? There are a lot of different opinions on this but here’s mine. Any individual has the right to block or not block email coming into their email address. Even if I have signed up for your email, I can still block you and that is just how it is. If I have not signed up to receive email from you, then you have no expectation that I will grant you the courtesy of unsubscribing. In this specific case, the address is a business address and I these cases I expect that the employer has a say in the filters that are run against mail coming into business addresses.

Publishing a list of email addresses on a webpage, knowing those addresses will be harvested by spammers is beyond what I would ever do. But I do know that spam is annoying, frustrating and infuriating; doing something so small to get back at them can be hugely satisfying.

Al has a post on the same article, talking about how this demonstrates that purchased lists are not a good thing.

3 comments

  1. lux says

    It seems to me that in regard to PR people sending press releases to a professional journalist, you’ve got a very specific use case with slightly different rules of engagement from the norm.

    The sending of press releases to reporters and editors is an accepted business practice in journalism, and the vast majority of publications have formal press release submission policies. If the editorial policy of the publication you work for is to accept press release submissions, IMO it’s really hard to argue that an employee of that publication is doing the right thing when s/he starts flat-out blocking media submissions.

  2. Mike says

    Email is a victim of it’s own success.

    This sort of thing (stock updates, newletters, etc.) is better done via RSS now.

  3. Dave J. (Scoop0901) says

    Then again, I do freelance writing, as well as work with a few organizations. I receive press releases from people and PR firms wanting to hawk the crap, er, goods, and have NEVER signed up for any list, have a public policy AGAINST receiving their garbage, yet it comes in at a volume of more than 1,500 SPAM daily — with filters! At one point, before taking an aggressive approach to SPAM about two years ago, I was receiving over 3,000 SPAM each day. The more you fight it, the more you find those sending SPAM — and other garbage that is NOT welcome — send even more.

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