The From Line

Sending, Managing & Monetizing Email

Yes Mail Gets $50K FTC Smack Down!

The Federal Trade Commission in a 5 to 0 vote decided to smack Yes Mail with a $50K fine for violating the CAN SPAM Act all due to a technical oversight.  I really feel bad for Yes Mail because no software company is without technical glitches.  Unfortunately, in this industry, technical mishaps comes with confrontation from the federal government.  The next step for the FTC is to chase after clients of email service providers.  Just make sure your email service provider dots their i's and crosses their t's because you'll be the next one to enter the ring.

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Spamhaus vs. e360. Which Side Should A Legitimate Email Marketer Take?

Every email marketer has heard by now about's whopping $11.6 million judgment against the notorious and often feared blacklist The Spamhaus Project.  As an email marketer, I wince at the mere idea at one of Spamhaus' "volunteers" reading my blog that criticizes the organization and as a result point their loaded guns at my business.  However, I do live in the United Stats and last time I checked the First Amendment is still alive and I think it's about time someone from my industry poke a few holes in Spamhaus' model even if it means that I will have to dodge a few rotten from the far left of spam vigilantism.

According to many members of the Email Senders and Providers Coalition (, of which Gold Lasso is still debating about becoming a member, legislated lists of email addresses or any legislative lists of anything related to email marketing is a bad thing.  I find it ironic however that these same people never openly criticize black lists and how they wreak havoc on legitimate email marketers.  By this statement I'm not suggesting that Spamhaus' labeling of e360 as a spammer is right or wrong. I am not familiar with e360's business or anyone related to the company.  However, I have dealt with Spamhaus on behalf of a client, and it wasn't fun to say the least.  Gold Lasso's main client base is trade associations and nonprofits.  As a member of these groups, you expressly give them permission to send you email yet a very prestigious client of mine with over 300,000 members in the academic community ended up on Spamhaus' list.  Just as e360 claimed in its complaint against Spamhaus, I found myself frantically searching for a non-existing phone number.  After a week of email exchange with an unidentified representative, I finally convinced the individual that my internationally recognized client was not a spammer nor were any of Gold Lasso's servers compromised by a spammer.  The net result was missed opportunities of my client's abilities to share vital academic research, sell books and other items that help augment its budget and most important, deliver information to their members of which they expressly asked to receive.

Some analyst estimate the direct mail industry to be $27 billion stretched across postal fees, printing, envelopes and the hundreds of thousands of people that make it all work. What would happen to the direct mail industry if some rouge group decided to take over local post offices chucking various piece of mail they thought to be unwanted by its recipients?  Worse, what if the post office opened the doors and feely let them do this? As the email industry grows, so too is its economic impact on this country.  Right now this nascent industry is fast becoming the most relied on medium for retailers, publishers, associations, educators, manufacturers, etc. to sell their wears, exchange ideas, and provide much needed information.  Having a group that can not be reached via the telephone determine who is a spammer and who is not could have a catastrophic economic impact on this industry in the next five years.

Given my criticisms of Spamhaus, overall they do a good job of catching the crooks, hucksters and pornographers.  Their technological methods are effective however just as a tuna fisherman they tend to catch a lot of untargeted dolphins.  Since most anti-spam efforts are a result of IP address and domain filtering, would it be such a bad thing if ICANN incorporated Spamhaus into its organization?  This maybe a pie in the sky thought, but it's better than the Legit Email Marketing Industry vs. Spamhaus nightmare that will likely unfold.

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Return Path's Bonded Sender Program Has a New Dress

I just finished reading Return Path's Sender Score Certified: Standards for Reputation-Based Email Accreditation; July 2006 white paper by George Bilbrey, General Manager of Delivery Assurance.  From what I can tell by reading this five page white paper, Return Path's new Sender Score Certified is a program to replace their not so popular Bonded Sender Program. Instead of putting the cost on bulk email senders, ISPs will pay to use Return Path's scoring system to determine if a bulk email sender has a decent enough reputation to send email to their customers.    

Return Path's scoring system seems sophisticated and in theory could work however I have yet to see a white list that prevents spam.  Spammers are usually a few steps ahead of the industry and I'm sure they are studying Return Path's white paper too.  

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Supreme Court Refuses To Hear White Buffalo Ventures Spam Case

Buried amongst stories on the Alito hearings today the Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal from White Buffalo Ventures regarding its suit against the University of Texas. The Court upheld the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision allowing the University of Texas to adhere to its network and email policy by blocking unsolicited email, including those sent by White Buffalo Ventures to University students and staff. Even though White Buffalo Ventures' email solicitations conformed to the CAN SPAM Act and obtained the targeted email addresses legally, the courts decided that UT had every right under the First Amendment to block such solicitations from entering their network.

What does this mean for email marketers? Absolutely nothing! We all know that ISPs and network administrators are the world's email gatekeepers and the best way to improve deliverability is not to sue them. I guess White Buffalo Ventures got duped by some unscrupulous attorney into spending their money on something they could have found out with a few simple Google searches.

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CAN SPAM ACT - What Does it All Mean?

The Federal CAN SPAM Act “S.877” has been in effect for a little more than two months. The purpose of this legislation was to reduce the amount of spam reaching our inboxes by setting forth national standards for the use and transmission of commercial email. Has the CAN SPAM Act helped to ‘can’ spam? Well, there’s no shortage of opinions on this topic, and the debate rages on.

Whether or not the CAN-SPAM Act has gone far enough to reduce inbox clutter or frighten the spammers, almost everyone agrees that it has left many legitimate marketers confused and concerned. And for good reason. Since the inception of this legislation, the leading technology, web service and Internet Service Providers (ISP’s) have been in a race to come up with their own ‘solutions’ to the spam problem. You can’t pick up an article on spam without reading about filtering software, authentication and detection programs, desktop spam blockers, suppression lists, white lists, black lists, certifications and digital signatures.

Earlier this month, Microsoft unveiled technical specifications for an email authentication system similar to caller ID for email. Rather than using simple filtering technology, this system would seek to identify ‘good’ email, and segregate everything else. Many companies have already experienced the frustration of having their legitimate email messages to their clients/customers blocked by overeager filtering technology, and overzealous IT departments.

At the same time, Internet and marketing firms are lobbying for the adoption of a system for ranking mailers based on reputation. Lawyers and consultants are working to convince businesses to retain them to insure spam compliance, and online publishers have flooded the markets with books on ‘dealing with CAN-SPAM’. So, where does that leave the legitimate marketer? Is it time to abandon email as a marketing and communications tool? The answer is a resounding no.

Email is still one of the most effective, reliable and cost efficient manners to communicate with current customers and prospects. Remember, the legislation was enacted to reduce spam, penalize spammers, and set forth best practices for email marketing. It was not intended to stop legitimate marketers from using email to communicate with their willing audience. Unfortunately, the immediate result of the legislation is that marketers have to work harder and smarter to ensure that their messages are successfully delivered to their intended audience. And, while marketers are working harder, spammers continue to find unorthodox ways of getting their messages delivered.

It’s time to take the bull by the horns. Legitimate marketers can remain ‘spam compliant’ by following common sense rules. Be honest. Don’t try to hide or disguise who you are, or the purpose, subject or content of your message. Take people off your list immediately when they opt out. Even one message arriving after an opt-out may be enough for you to be reported as a spammer. Address complaints promptly and professionally. Remember, anyone even suspecting you of spamming them, won’t hesitate to report you to the ISP, and most ISPs have made spam reporting as simple as clicking a button.

If you are concerned about whether your company has the time or human resources necessary to manage the various aspects of CAN-SPAM compliance, it may be worth considering an outside email service provider. An email service provider’s lifeblood is in maintaining a relationship with the ISPs to insure that their clients’ email messages aren’t filtered, blocked or blacklisted. In addition, a reputable email service provider will routinely monitor their customers’ messages for compliance, provide automatic opt-outs and suppressions, and handle complaints promptly. The costs of using an email service provider should be weighed against the time and resources required by your company’s IT department to address these types of ongoing data management issues.

The email landscape will undoubtedly continue to evolve in the months and years to come based on this newly enacted legislation, and the response of consumers and ISP’s. Legitimate marketers will have to work harder to insure deliverability, high open rates, and less blocking. Gold Lasso is committed to staying ahead of email marketing trends, and will continue to make the necessary changes to our system and procedures to help our clients remain in full compliance with email standards and laws.

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