2005 Predictions

Alright, it's that time of year when I put on my prestidigitation hat and make my 2005 predications for e-mail. What do we think will be the issues next year and what new technologies will be in effect?

Gmail Effect: One of the most visible areas of change in 2005 will be how e-mail newsletters format their ads as a result of the increasing influence of Gmail. As we all know by now, Gmail strips out all graphics by default. You have to proactively turn them back on and do so on an e-mail by e-mail basis. This is going to dramatically effect how newsletter publishers embed their sponsor's messages into the e-mail since Gmail represents the e-mail equivalent of TiVo, at least as far as ad skipping is concerned.

For instance I have personally moved all my trade related e-mail newsletters to my Gmail account so that they no longer take up space in my business in-box. That way I can use Google's search algorithms to find specific articles or mentions in all the business related newsletters I subscribe to; this is a great feature for someone like me. The downside is that I haven't seen an ad in any of the these publications since I started using Gmail.



I expect that more of my peers will do the same thing over the next year, which means that if a company is trying to reach me, they better have the message in text format. Hence, copy rather than graphics will become more important in driving clicks. Newsletters devoting chunks of real estate to large banners and skyscrapers are probably going to have to rethink the design of their pages.

Deliverability: Just like 2004 was the year of CAN-SPAM, 2005 is going to be the year of deliverability and I expect we are going to see some dramatic gestures and relationships forged over the next year to guarantee deliverability through some of the larger ISPs. We will see some sort of postage mechanism in place whether it is in the form of a stamp on each e-mail or block payments to ISP's to insure e-mail gets delivered to the in-boxes and does not get blocked. E-mail marketers are willing to pay, and it could be a great source of income to the larger ISPs.

To support such a service, I expect that there will be an equivalent of an independent Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval for e-mail marketers that will open up the in-box gates and let messages be delivered, and it will include things like insuring that the messages are truly CAN-SPAM compliant, rather than just appearing to be so and will require true double opt-in verification.

In fact, I predict that we will soon see an eBay-type rating system attached to each e-mail message. Customers rate each marketer like they do on eBay and only marketers that have reached a certain level of customer satisfaction can get offers through. We are already seeing community-based spam elimination systems such as Cloudmark.

Why not build a customer satisfaction index in as well? In fact, the entire e-mail industry should take a chapter from eBay's playbook. If ISPs started basing their deliverability options around their user's positive feedback with the advertiser rather than negative spam complaints, they might find they are not only servicing their customers better by providing community rated offers to those who want to receive them, but open themselves up to a nice revenue stream as well.

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