The dark side of email marketing


Everyone I talk to when dealing with issues inevitably has to tell me they are legitimate email marketers. They’re not spammers, they’re just business people. I often find it difficult to fathom why they need to tell me this. It’s not like email marketers are criminals or anything.
Two recent stories reminded me how evil some folks are. While I’ve not had any direct contact (that I know of) with any of the players on this end of things I have zero doubt that if they called me they would tell me that they were legitimate email marketers.
In one case, a members of a spam gang kidnapped the teenage daughter of someone investigating their activities. The gang held her for more than 5 years in horrific conditions. Yesterday Joseph Menn, author of “Fatal System Error” posted on Boing Boing that his friend got his daughter back. It is a heartbreaking story and incredibly sobering.
In another case, the Russian police arrested a man who ran, a clearinghouse for viagra sellers to find spammers to send their mail. Reports say that mail volumes dropped by a fifth after the site was taken offline.
There is real evil in the email marketing industry. Sure, they’re spammers and we can all stand up and say they’re not legitimate. But, this is what the ISPs and Spamhaus and law enforcement are dealing with on a regular basis.

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  • That figure of a 20% drop in spam is very misleading. First of all, it seems to be widely repeated, but is from a single source – a Cisco graph that’s shown on that NY Times article:
    Other places (eg, MessageLabs, Barracuda, DCC) don’t seem to reflect this change at all, as far as I can tell.
    Secondly, even if you take the Cisco graph at face value, the 20% drop is over the the several months, not as a direct result of being taken offline. The two facts *might* be true – was taken offline *and* spam has fallen by 20% – but one didn’t cause the other.

  • Oops, that should’ve been “” with only one m (in my defense, I copied it from Laura’s post – it’s her fault!).

  • While calling yourself a ‘legitimate email marketer’ is a bit vague at best, I understand how someone might use the term and feel it’s sufficient if they are newer to the industry and want to emphasize they have good intentions, especially after a particularly cruel rebuke from a blacklist that makes them feel like pond scum. If nothing else, it communicates to us that the speaker may not really understand how murky and useless the term ‘legitimate’ really is and probably needs some empathetic but firm shepherding in all aspects of delivery.
    By telling us something like that they are desperately looking for someone who will not make them feel like they are bad people – someone who will believe that they do in fact mean well and will work with them to get to the point where they are convinced of what is universally expected from them – which we know is wanted and solicited mail. That said, I’m well aware there’s plenty of both – people who truly don’t know any better, and people who know that most people don’t consider what they do ‘legitimate’ but choose not to do listen.

By laura

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