Two reasons not to buy a list


Ken Magill, celebrity, has two articles today that highlight the issue with buying lists from vendors. The first is yet another article about EmailAppenders selling bad data. In this case, it is not the buyers who are complaining. According to Ken EmailAppenders are sending out email advertising they can sell Internet Retailer’s list of 2008 conference attendees. Internet Retailer is disputing this and has sent EmailAppenders a cease and desist. EmailAppenders is currently dodging Ken’s attempts to get their side of the story.
The second is an article about Zoominfo, a new group in the list selling business. Zoominfo has long been harvesting information from other sites. Now, they are offering to sell their scraped and harvested list. Their only requirement is that the buyer sign an agreement to comply with CAN SPAM. And, yes, if someone is dumb enough to buy this harvested list, they should comply with CAN SPAM as sending mail to a harvested list triggers additional penalties if or when the FTC decides to go after the sender.
Not only are Zoominfo harvesting data, they are harvesting from ancient and obscure sources. They have no current information for me, but they managed to find an email address for a job I left in 1993. They have Steve listed as an employee of “postgreSQL INC” because they harvested the postgres mailing list archives. Mickey pointed out one of Zoominfo’s sources is You do not even need to visit that site, just look at the URL!
Zoominfo’s VP and general manager claims they send emails to people regularly, offering them the chance to opt-out. First of all, I have never received one of these, have any of you? Secondly, some of the addresses are so old opt-outs are not relevant. Finally, unless they are monitoring their delivery, which I strongly doubt given their business model, anyone buying addresses from them is going to buy lots of dead addresses. And spamtraps. Lots of spamtraps.
I am sure that people who buy and sell lists regularly will tell me that these are outliers and that most companies who sell lists have higher data collection standards. My experience suggests that these are middle of the road list brokers. They are companies who are willing to sell anything with an @ sign in it and do not care about how sending to that data affects their customers.

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  • Great post, and right on about the veracity of ZoomInfo data, and the follow-up issues with buying one of those lists, when the FTC cracks down on farms like this. Buying lists: bad ideas for so many reasons.

  • According to Zoominfo, I work for Return Path and am based in New Jersey. Both came as a bit of a shock to me, as I’ve not yet seen a paycheck from RP and the daily commute from Europe is a little daunting.

  • It is just crazy to see this kind of business is still existing.
    Though I would like to point out that “data quality” problem when you rent (and not buy) a list. The average quality is getting worsed and worsed for a main reason : lower and lower renting prices which cause lower and lower collection costs whcih lead to cheap collection program an of course the data quality that goes with it.
    Before complaining about lists qualification and ROI on campains based on rented lists we should first take a few minutes to think about what can I reasonably expect from a qualified list and what is the reasonable price that I am ready to pay for such a list.
    Do you prefere to spend 3000 euros for a list that will just put you in trouble ( delivery problems, blacklisting of IPs and a bad reputation for using such lists) or rent a list 50 000 euros bt have a campain with a positive ROI… we will not have both.

  • As my original article pointed out, the information is wrong (ie, Zoominfo is making connections that are incorrect) so I don’t think it can then be considered “public information.” The other problem is that there is no proactive opt-out.
    Finally, if you are buying email addresses from them, you are spending a lot of money for incredibly inaccurate information. You’d be better off harvesting email addresses yourself and not bothering with the faulty “context” Zoominfo is creating.

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