First a little catch-up: Before I left for vacation I wrote about the cyber-scam that fractured the world of Bluegrass Dobro guitar players. As I mentioned in that column, a guy ingratiated himself into the community, started a popular Web site destination for Dobro enthusiasts, produced festivals and workshops, built Dobro guitars, and published a magazine. The only problem: after taking the money, most of these things never got delivered. Now the community finds itself collectively out over $70,000 and the alleged perpetrator is on the run.
The community responded in an amazing fashion: they started a private e-mail group that collected data and cataloged all the alleged loses. They were able to organize their plight and present them to all of the proper authorities.
As of a few days ago the Postal Inspector got involved and justice seems to be moving slowly, but moving. All of this is the opposite side of scamming a small group: while it may be easy to gain their trust in order to rip them off, they can just as easily band together, circle the wagon, and retaliate en masse, which is exactly what happened in this case.
I got a lot of e-mail last week of the "What, are you OUT OF YOUR MIND!" type when I advocated a postal system to get rid of unwanted spam. Regarding my contention that most legitimate e-mailers want such a system, I got a lot of "Which legitimate e-mailers have YOU been talking to!?"
The answer is: actually quite a few. And what most them advocate is some sort of pay-for-delivery system, which is essentially a postage system whether or not it is paid on a per e-mail basis or in a lump sum to the ISP. Of course hand-in-hand with a postal system is guaranteed delivery. If you put a stamp on your direct mail piece, it gets delivered. You can put yourself on a do-not-mail list, you can move, but the fact is if it has a stamp, the post office has to at least try and deliver it. The same thing would apply in this case: payment equals guaranteed delivery and this is what the e-mailers I have been talking with advocate.
I guess I should have mentioned that little piece of info in last week's article, but hey, I was still hung-over from New Years!
So now on to new stuff: one of the things that I haven't talked about yet is the pattern of e-mails and site traffic around the Christmas and Thanksgiving holidays. Our tracking software showed some interesting things in the retail and mail order catalog sectors during the holiday. First, while there was almost an across-the-board, huge spike in Web site traffic numbers the day after Thanksgiving, there was almost no e-mail sent. With all the print ads in newspapers, brands still haven't gotten the idea that e-mail drives traffic as well, and so an opportunity was lost.
Around Christmas there was an interesting dip in traffic starting on Dec. 24 and stretching until Dec. 28 (again this was consistent across all the brands I looked at). On Dec 28 traffic numbers moved right up to their pre-Christmas levels across the board. Traffic remained at that level until the New Year when they dipped again.
But again, retailers and catalogers did not take advantage of e-mail, sending out almost no e-mail during the week between Christmas and New Years. Why? Again, brands don't seem to get the message that Internet traffic follows the same pattern as foot traffic. I guess we will need a few more holidays for them to get the message.
And no, we did not notice a significant jump in traffic around Festivus.