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Some thoughts on permission

A lot of email marketing best practices center around getting permission to send email to recipients. A lot of anti-spammers argue that the issue is consent not content. Both groups seem to agree that permission is important, but more often than not they disagree about what constitutes permission.
For some the only acceptable permission is round trip confirmation, also known as confirmed opt-in or double opt-in.
For others making a purchase constitutes permission to send mail.
For still others checking or unchecking a box on a signup page is sufficient permission.
I don’t think there is a global, over arching, single form of permission. I think context and agreement matters. I think permission is really about both sides of the transaction knowing what the transaction is. Double opt-in, single opt-in, check the box to opt-out area all valid ways to collect permission. Dishonest marketers can, and do, use all of these ways to collect email addresses.
But while dishonest marketers may adhere to all of the letters of the best practice recommendations, they purposely make the wording and explanation of check boxes and what happens when confusing. I do believe some people make the choices deliberately confusing to increase the number of addresses that have opted in. Does everyone? Of course not. But there are certainly marketers who deliberately set out to make their opt-ins as confusing as possible.
This is why I think permission is meaningless without the context of the transaction. What did the address collector tell the recipient would happen with their email address? What did the address giver understand would happen with their email address? Do these two things match? If the two perceptions agree then I am satisfied there is permission. If the expectations don’t match, then I’m not sure there is permission involved.
What are your thoughts on permission?

4 comments

  1. Steevo says

    What is double opt-in, exactly?
    I have heard spammers say they do that so everything is fine, and antispammers say that is nonsense.

  2. Al says

    I think the “What is double opt-in” question has been answered many times before. I’ve blogged about it here, for example. That’s from seven years ago.
    If somebody is doing COI in response to *subscriber initiated* signup requests, I’d be hard pressed to call that spam. If they’re doing it by sending COI or double opt-in request emails to harvested lists, bought lists, co-reg, etc, it’s probably not really COI or opt-in at all.
    The devil is in the details.

  3. Huey says

    No, no, no! The NAME is the important thing. See: http://blog.wordtothewise.com/2008/02/what-really-is-spam-anyway/ for more on this. If we define ‘spam’ to mean ‘murdering people with an axe’, we can then say definitively that a) spam is bad, and b) spam is something that I don’t do- …as far as you know. Similarly, if we can just get people fixated on the name ‘double opt-in’ instead of the process by which a prospective subscriber sends a request which prompts the sending of some unique token which must then be returned, in order to prove that it was actually them, then we can also create a bunch of FUD about it and thereby increase the perception by the lesser-informed that we’re all geniuses who know exactly what we’re talking about.
    I’d write more, but I have to go leverage my e-business synergies.

  4. The Proverbial Barry says

    i am intrigued by your ideas and would like to subscribe to your newsletter

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