Drowning in spam

Email once offered the great promise of being able to quickly, cheaply and easily communicate with fans, customers and large numbers of contacts. Not any more. We are drowning in spam, and it has undermined the effectiveness of email.

During the past year I tried several web-based email marketing services to manage the monthly newsletter for my band, Gemini Soul. For a small monthly fee, these services provide professional-looking newsletter templates, mailing list management, statistical tracking and other goodies. At first I thought it was great. But I soon learned that, because of the high volume of spam on the Internet (which my IT contacts tell me represents 90% of all email – !!!), the majority of my email messages were being filtered out by email service providers like yahoo and gmail. Even with “double opt-in,” in which someone who requests to be added to your mailing list is sent a message asking them to confirm that they want to be added, messages were not getting through. It is hard to understand how most people who voluntarily signed up for a mailing list either did not receive or did not respond to such messages.

I was dismayed to see that each time I sent a newsletter, only one-third of the recipients were actually receiving the message. The rest of the messages were vanishing into spam filters, being deleted without opening (probably because the recipient was deluged with email), or bouncing because of a variety of problems. The problem was confirmed when I checked with individuals on the email list whom I personally knew. I complained to the email marketing services and was told that 25-33% is considered a good response rate. Imagine if you mailed 100 letters and the post office said it was considered a success if only 33 of your letters arrived!

Large-volume corporations can afford to pay for expensive services and “registries” that reduce the likelihood that multiple-recipient messages get filtered. For you and me and the independent musician, though, that option is not feasible.

And spam is not just confined to email. I screen comments on my blog to make sure they’re legitimate. It’s really disgusting to see how often people find sneaky ways to try to promote products by pretending to be something they aren’t. Here’s a typical illegitimate post that I’ve received several times, accompanied by a link to a website or service, a bald-faced attempt at self-promotion wrapped in a lie:

Hello…Man i love reading your blog, interesting posts ! it was a great Wednesday

It was a great Wednesday? What is that supposed to mean?

It’s disheartening to see all of this at work. In my kingdom, spammers would be imprisoned and forced to listen to Britney Spears 24 hours a day. Like that woman who used to live in the apartment above mine. Every night at midnight she would come home and put a Pat Benatar album on. “Hit me with your best shot…” Over and over. The song would end, and I would lie in bed, waiting for it to start again. That’s my version of hell. And that’s where spammers should end up.

Fire away…

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