Bits and Pieces

It is time for a little spring house cleaning: today's article will be little bits and pieces that have been hanging around the Email Insider corporate headquarters, with no particular thread tying them together:

1. Follow-up: In my article a few weeks ago entitled "Amazing Tales," I reported on a company called American Rate Network that sent dozens of emails a day with different brand names such as National Warranty Center, Extended Warranty Center, Extend Your Warranty, etc., and a dozen or so loan brands as well, all of which take you to the same web site. I tried unsubscribing from one of their brands, Low Refinance Network, and I told you I would report back on the progress: Theoretically, we should have not only been unsubscribed from Low Refinance Network, but all of the messages from American Rate Network.

The answer: we were never unsubscribed and in fact American Rate Network has increased the number of mailings. We now receive 90 emails a day from this emailer, all to the same email address, 90 emails a day. That's 32,850 unwanted emails a year! Still Amazing.

2. Gmail: I got my Gmail account yesterday and I've come up with a great use for it. First, Gmail is pretty slick and it has a neat facility of organizing your email messages into "conversations." In other words, it shows you an email from someone, but also tells you how many emails you've received from that person. With one click, you can bring up the entire string of emails that the person has sent you: a cool little feature. Now, I would never use Gmail for my personal or company email correspondence, but one great use for it is to organize all my newsletters and usergroups email that was clogging up my business account. I started switching all of my newsletters over to it as well as my listserve correspondence. Not only do I not have to worry about these things clogging up my normal business inbox, I can use Google's search algorithms to find specific items at a latter date.

One big problem for the newsletter publishers: Gmail strips out all graphics by default. That means, as I was reading my newsletters this morning, none of the banner ads appeared. I can turn them back on if I want, but I didn't feel a need to. If Gmail takes off this spells very bad news for newsletter publishers, especially since Google was able to add their own relevant text links right next to the copy of the newsletter. Their selections for the most part were pretty relevant too. In fact I like the Google text ads. They are relevant and targeted to whatever I'm reading in my email at the moment. I predict Gmail is going to force redesign changes to newsletters in the near future.

3. Pet Peeve: As I was moving my email accounts over, I was dismayed to discover just how many of my email newsletters do not provide any easy method to change your email address. Since Return Path reports that 30% of a company's mailing list is lost each year due to people changing their email addresses, you would think that it would be a no brainer to provide a link allowing people to update their accounts with a new address. Instead, the only option is to unsubscribe and then if you get around to it, resubscribing. Every email newsletter should have an update link right next to the unsubscribe link.

4. Scams that have nothing to do with Email: With all the focus on email scams, we forget that there are plenty of scams out there that come in through the postal mail, or over the phone. In fact my company was a recent victim. Here's how it works: someone calls up your company, ostensively to "update their records." They ask if you are still at the same address and do you want the "same listing as last year." The person answering the phone has no idea what the person is talking about so confirms the address and agrees that to do "whatever we had last year." The next day you receive an invoice for $250 for a listing in their database. They claim they are sending out a book with your name in it (which never arrives). Once you complain, they claim that they "have you on tape," agreeing to purchase their listing and then they proceed to hound you by calling everyday to get their payment. A quick search on Google for a company called Infocom USA (which has nothing to do with the legitimate direct mail company, Info USA who purchased Edith Roman this week), will bring up the horror stories of librarians around the country that have been plagued by this particular scam. I seem to have gotten rid of my daily calls from Infocom USA by demanding they send me an agreement in writing, signed by an officer of my company confirming our order of their product. Since this doesn't exist and never received the product, that seems to be the antidote and I haven't heard from them since.

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