E-Mail Coalition Announces False-Positive Forum

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The Network Advertising Initiative's (NAI) new e-mail service provider coalition Tuesday announced it would collect examples of how ISPs' stringent e-mail filters scoop up legitimate messages instead of spam.

The initiative will set up an "I_Did_Not_Get_My-E-Mail" forum on Yahoo! Groups, where consumers can express their frustrations with overly aggressive filtering. It is meant to draw attention to the e-mail marketing industry's contention that blunt tactics in the war on spam are having widespread unintended consequences, affecting more than just marketing messages.

"If you're expecting a gift certificate from an online bookstore or a city meeting notice, you may never see it due to the blacklists and filters that are currently in place," said Trevor Hughes, the NAI's executive director. "A message from a long-lost high school buddy may be filtered if he uses too many exclamation points."

The NAI's e-mail marketing coalition, which was founded last month, includes top e-mail marketing companies like DoubleClick, Topica and Yesmail. Together, the e-mail service providers deliver e-mail messages on behalf of 250,000 customers.

The group will bring a unified voice to issues facing e-mail marketers, such as legitimate e-mail marketing messages getting caught up in leading Internet service providers' spam filters, and state legislatures pushing anti-spam measures that impede e-mail marketing.

Hughes said, however, that the coalition would focus on how issues affecting e-mail marketers affect consumers in many areas.

The main issue facing e-mail marketers is what to do about the increasing public outcry over spam. According to Jupiter Research, which is a division of the parent company of this site, the average e-mail user will receive 3,900 unsolicited commercial messages a year in 2007. Brightmail detected 6.1 million spam attacks last month, a 120 percent increase from a year ago.

Consumers have taken note and pushed for a variety of remedies to the spam problem, from legislation to technological solutions. The major ISPs have stepped up their spam-filtering software to provide some relief from the spam deluge. E-mail marketers have found their messages can be tagged as spam, leading to a blacklisting. Nearly equally troubling, filtering systems on AOL's and MSN's new versions can steer marketing messages into the bulk mail folder, where they are much less likely to be opened.

"Legitimate messages that are block or filtered have become a stumbling block in the war against spam and we hope the forum will help address the problem," Hughes said.

Earlier this month, Assurance Systems estimated that 15 percent of permission-based e-mail failed to reach recipients in-boxes at the top 10 ISPs.

The spam issue threatens to impede the progress of the e-mail marketers. E-mail marketing held up strongly during the pronounced online advertising downturn, growing into at $1.4 billion industry in 2002, according to Jupiter Research. By 2007, e-mail marketing is forecast to take in $8.3 in revenues, as more companies see the value of e-mail for customer retention.

In late April, the Federal Trade Commission will take up the spam issue with a three-day forum on the issue.

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