April Fools

I was taken in by an April Fool's article this year. It seems like every year I get caught by one. One year it was the NPR story about back-to-earth naturalists proclaiming the beneficial properties of compost, including a drink called ComPostum. My wife still reminds me of that.

This year, it was an article that ran in what I quickly glanced as ClickZ but in reality was ClickZzzz, and closer inspection revealed it was from the industry's tabloid newsletter, Adbumb. In the article it announced that self-proclaimed "Spam King" Scott Richter, who's company Opt-in-Real Big has just filed for bankruptcy, was sentenced by the court to a year of community service working for the anti-spam organization Spamhaus. Maybe I got caught because Adbumb has a hard time reading the calendar and sent it out on March 30. Or maybe because, these days, anything seems possible in the e-mail marketing sector.

There is no question that the e-mail market is hot right now. First there was the battle over Digital Impact, who withstood a hostile takeover by InfoUSA, only to be acquired by Acxiom for a reported $140 million. Then on Tuesday there was the announcement that Datran Media, one of the leading e-mail marketing firms, just received a $60 million equity investment.



And of course, there was the real story about Opt-in-Real Big's fight with Microsoft, where the legal bills associated with Microsoft's lawsuit against Scott Richter's company forced it into bankruptcy.

All of this action is almost hard to believe considering Jim Nail's (of Forrester Research) statement last month that e-mail marketing had peaked. I say, follow the money. A $60 million equity investment sounds like something we haven't seen since 1999.

I don't know if you remember the government faux pas a few years back when it was suggested that a futures market be created around terrorist activity. Basically, people would place bets on where the next terrorist attack would be. While a PR disaster, the concept is sound: When people are betting real money on the future, they are often very accurate in predicting what is going to happen.

Right now there is a lot of investment money to be spent in the e-mail marketing sector. Maybe these investors know something that the rest of us don't.

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