Email Marketers Applaud Yahoo Spam Features, Fret Over Impact
"Increased filtering will get us," fretted Bill Hewson, director of relationship marketing and media at Sharpe Partners, a company that coordinates double-permission lists for marketers like Fuji. Despite those concerns, he said Yahoo has traditionally been "pretty effective" at not blocking permission-based lists. Instead, he said it is corporate mail servers that have been giving his clients the most problems.
"Obviously our major issue is that consumers who want the information won't be able to get it in some instances," he explains. "That's frustrating, sure."
"While this doesn't necessarily help the good email marketers, it is something that is necessary given the current marketplace and the growth of spam," concurred Nick Pahade, vice president and managing director of Beyond Interactive. "It is a good tactical move by Yahoo and while it doesn't solve the problem, if it helps consumers only get the content they want, it should help out marketers in the long run."
The new AddressGuard component to Yahoo's Mail Plus service, which costs $29.99 per year, allows users to set up a "base name" as well as 500 variations on it. The idea is that they'll employ the variations for their usenet postings and other web activities and then cancel any of the names besieged by spam.
However, some within the media food chain questioned whether the tactic is the equivalent of plugging a dam with a piece of cork. "Is 500 enough?" asked Greg Smith, executive vice president-director of media at Carat USA. "It's like putting more numbers into a code. [The spammers] can still crack it if they have the time."
Though he said Yahoo's anti-spam tools "work relatively well," Hewson largely affirmed Smith's assessment. "To me, it's just a press release to say that they've changed their user interface," he explained. "I'm not sure that the supposedly new features are that much different from what was already there."
Not surprisingly, Yahoo anti-spam products manager Miles Libbey disagreed, arguing that AddressGuard is considerably more than a stopgap solution.
"Durability is very important to us, and we think this [service] will withstand the test of time," he said. Libbey also pointed to a study noting that, despite an overwhelming amount of spam, 45% of users are, in his words, "scared" to change their primary email address. "Something like AddressGuard will resonate with them," he predicted.
Libbey added that marketers were not consulted during the development of AddressGuard: "What I hear from them mostly is that they want to weed out the bad guys as much as we do. It's obviously in their best interest to be heard over all the noise."
Despite his barbs, Smith extended kudos to Yahoo for pressing ahead with legitimate efforts to slow the avalanche of spam to a trickle. He curtly dismissed a suggestion that the AddressGuard feature is a mere concession to consumer yelps for better protection against spam.
"This isn't just a marketing thing," he said. "[Yahoo] would obviously love it if they were able to attack the problem better, but it's like with anything else - 'I don't have a solution, so I'll throw the best solution out there, even if it's imperfect.'"