The other day, Laura at Word to the Wise got me thinking with her post, ‘Email is different’. To loosely recap, the post answered a question which likely echoed the sentiments of many towards issues like anti-spam legislation and permission, being:
‘Why do so many feel that email should be somehow held to a higher standard than other direct marketing channels?’
In comparing TV and radio segments to email, Laura made some clear distinctions - the former two have been marketing channels from the beginning. They’re broadcast mediums. They’ve been created by marketers, are wholly paid for by owned by marketers and therefore marketers are entitled to pester each and all who choose to tune in with marketing messages.
Email is different because it’s not solely a marketing channel. The cost of spam isn’t borne simply by the sender, but by hosts, ISPs, recipients and everyone in-between.
Nonetheless, it must seem strange to those with limited email experience that it’s not okay to purchase an email list, while the practice of buying and selling personal information remains widespread amongst telemarketers and direct mailers. Why should email be put on a pedestal? After all, consumers don’t pay phone line rental in order to receive unsolicited calls at dinnertime… But they still happen, without consequence to the call center, or their clients.
I’m sure a lot of designers, perhaps you included, have had conversations along these lines. Personally, I think senders of unsolicited email should be held accountable because they cost ISPs and ESPs a supreme amount of development time - all those super-intelligent engineers working on spam detection and filtering tools could really be off making the world a better place in other ways. Senders can create worldwide, widespread inconvenience, with very little time and effort. They should also be held accountable because it’s technically possible to do so.
However, this is a can of worms I wanted to share with you. When your clients ask why they can’t purchase lists and send unsolicited email, what do you say? We’re looking forward to your opinions in the comments below.