We should have an emissions check for ESPs

Chris posted yesterday about the problems with selling dedicated IPs along with the comments, it got me thinking about what we, the industry of Email Service Providers, are responsible for. At Wildbit, we feel an obligation to rid this world of spam and junk mail. It’s not like it’s a higher calling, it’s just the right thing to do as an email service provider (ESP). ESPs are the gateway to a lot of junk mail, not just spam mail. It’s the junk mail that’s difficult to police but we believe can and should be done by every ESP.

Junk mail vs. Spam mail #

We talk a lot about spam in the email industry, but we don’t talk much about what I consider “junk mail”.

Like the random take out restaurant flyers you get in your physical mailbox, junk mail is the catalogue equivalent for email. These are newsletters and announcements and marketing emails that are mostly useless to many people, but don’t necessarily fit the definition of spam. You probably signed up for a list at some point, but the list owner is overstepping with the quality or quantity of their mailings. We dealt with this a lot when we ran our email marketing service. What’s important is that ISPs are now taking a stance against this type of email by keeping track of whether these get opened, read, etc (engagement).

Now, this junk mail does generate some spam complaints, but often not tons. Therefore ESPs allow these emails to go out day after day. Why? Because it’s not causing global delivery issues (at least not right away). These emails just get marked as spam, but anyone else sending through that IP won’t necessarily get flagged as spam.

Our view #

At Postmark, we don’t deal with this problem nearly as much as we used to with our email marketing service. Most transactional email is expected and triggered by a user’s specific action. Even with that we keep our spam threshold extremely low. Some emails still trigger spam complaints, commonly things like invite friend tools, auto-responders, etc. We keep a strict eye out for that kind of activity and ban it from Postmark if it becomes abusive.

Strict? Maybe. There’s a fine line between what the marketing department wants to accomplish and what a customer or recipient wants and expects. Sending the same automated email 3 times a week is probably going to piss people off.

That’s junk mail, and we don’t stand for it.

Emissions Testing For A Better (Emailing) Environment #

ESPs are polluting the environment allowing people to send this junk. There are so many groups and tools out there to block the spam after it happens, but I’m not seeing a lot of ESPs working on stopping the junk from being sent in the first place. The punishment to an ESP for sending junk just isn’t as high as sending spam, so everyone concentrates on keeping the African princes away, but not the retail newsletter that got sent out every day last week.

There’s a lot of money to be had in sending junk mail (both paper and electronic). We think that there should be more of an effort made by the ESPs to do better than the minimum requirements set by ISPs. Think of it like car companies getting awarded for having lower emissions than the minimum requirements. They are actually working to help the environment, not just keep it from getting worse.