I hear this all the time. But, y’know what? It’s BS. Total BS.
In the last month, I’ve gotten “targeted” messages (that escaped my filters) from the following companies who purchased lists.
- A company offering Agile and Scrum classroom workshops… in Australia. (they know they’re spamming: they are hiding behind domain privacy)
- Laura Ashley offering me in store specials… in the UK. (their ESP doesn’t seem to respond to abuse complaints)
- A company offering hair growth products… shipped from the UK. (their ESP responded quite politely and are on top of things regarding my complaint)
- A company offering to let me invest in student housing… in the UK (they know they’re spamming: they have fake whois data)
- A company offering “secret bargains”, an affiliate of Amazon EU… advertising amazon.co.uk (this one is currently SBLed, but the spam hasn’t stopped, and has false whois records)
These are a few of the messages I’ve actually seen, the ones that escape my filters.
I’m sure the people who purchased the email addresses involved (and these messages are going to 3 different email addresses) paid good money for them. I’m sure they were told these were targeted messages.
The people who sold the addresses to them don’t know what they’re selling. I won’t go so far as to say they’re lying, but the companies that purchased the lists didn’t get what they thought they were.
These addresses are not only worthless to the buyers, in some cases they’re actively harmful. ESPs involved have discovered their customers are violating their AUP just for mailing to me. In other cases, my address was on lists with dozens, if not hundreds, of Spamhaus spamtraps and that IP is now on the SBL.
This is just one small slice of one person’s mail stream. I actually don’t think my addresses get sold much more than the average persons, in fact I’m pretty sure I get less mail from purchased lists than other people. I know for a fact there are ESPs that block everything to my domain – much to my chagrin when one of their customers hires me to do an analysis and it take weeks to figure out why they can’t send me mail.
Much of my incoming sales in the last year have been mailers who, previously, were successfully buying lists and mailing them. Filters are getting better at blocking this mail, and a lot of businesses who are purchasing lists are discovering that their deliverability is in the toilet. The pattern is mirroring what happened to co-reg lists a few years ago. Filters got better and a lot of co-reg companies couldn’t stay in business because deliverability was so low. While I don’t think the market for purchased lists is going away – it’s too easy and too cheap to ever go away – I do think that it’s a challenge for a lot of companies.
With some customers we’ve worked out a transition plan, to get them away from reliance on purchased lists in the long term. They’re comfortable with the process and while it is a change, it’s on a scale they can financially manage. Other companies have looked at the finances and decided not to change and just struggle with the poor deliverability.
Overall, delivery to purchased lists is tough. And I don’t really see it getting any easier for buyers.