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ISPs are speaking, is anyone listening?

Lately I’ve been seeing and hearing a lot of quiet warning noises coming from ISPs and spam filtering companies about sender behaviour. I believe they’re forecasting changes in how ISPs treat commercial email and what new issues senders are going to have to negotiate.
The short version is that commercial mail is a mixed bag. Recipients want commercial mail that is relevant and engaging. As the ISPs get a handle on filtering spam from botnets and viruses, commercial mail is showing up on their radar. They’re seeing problems in the mail streams coming from commercial mailers. Unlike spammers, the commercial streams are hard to block, as they are a mix of wanted and unwanted mail.
They’re seeing more and bigger problems from commercial mailers and they’re starting to drop the hints that smart people will take and incorporate into their future business plans.
What are the ISPs saying?
The model for blocking, temp failing and bulk foldering is changing. No longer are there hard metrics driving delivery decisions. ISPs are moving from complaint based filtering schemes to something a lot more squishy. The ISPs want mail that their recipients want. They don’t want mail their recipients don’t want.
For a while “want” was measured as “do not complain about in numbers higher than X” but that was a metric that was very, very easy to game. It’s not just about individual IP reputations, and it’s not just about individual IP complaint rates. Now it’s about not sending mail to that email address that’s been abandoned for 9 months. It’s about sending mail that keep the recipients around so the ISPs can show them ads. It’s about making the end users happy with their inbox experience.
Right now, the statements coming from the ISPs are quiet. They’re not talking specifics, but there is a growing chorus that says commercial mailers need to make some changes to how they’re doing things now. The warnings are there for the people who are listening. From what I’m hearing, though, I don’t think many people are listening. I have no doubt when the quiet warnings turn into blocks and filters there will be much complaining about the lack of warning.
The problem isn’t the lack of warning, the problem is the lack of listening.

5 comments

  1. The coming changes – Word to the Wise says

    […] I talked about how I’m hearing warnings of a coming paradigm shift in the email industry. While these changes will affect all sender, ESPs […]

  2. A series of warnings – Word to the Wise says

    […] ISPs are speaking is anyone listening? from: Word to the Wise No longer are there hard metrics driving delivery decisions. ISPs are moving from complaint based filtering schemes to something a lot more squishy. The ISPs want mail that their recipients want. They don’t want mail their recipients don’t want. […]

  3. Online Marketing Blog » Blog Archive » The one question to ask of your email marketing in 2010 says

    […] the last few weeks and months, various people close to the process of managing and filtering incoming emails have been warning that […]

  4. Dezri Dean says

    Why is it that an ISP can espouse a hatred towards spam yet give no one an avenue for reporting email coming from their domains? No way to contact them UNLESS you are one of their customers and even then you get no response? Can I list an entire ISP or country as blocked? My own ISP is no help, only saying that reporting an email is the best way to handle this. I still get tons of spam from the same domains!

  5. Spamhaus rising? – Word to the Wise says

    […] correlations and look at mail in a way that was simply impossible 2 or 3 years ago. This means they can better identify senders who had previously been able to slide in under the […]

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