For the study, Goodmail sent messages on behalf of Time Inc. to more than four million magazine subscribers who had accounts with AOL--a corporate sibling of Time Inc., and the only major Internet Service Provider so far to start using Goodmail's certified e-mail delivery program. Half of the e-mails had been certified by Goodmail, so they arrived with a Goodmail icon and with all images and links enabled, while the other half were sent absent certification.
Goodmail intends to eventually charge marketers a per-message fee to certify e-mail, but did not charge Time Inc. for the e-mails sent as part of the study.
The Time Inc. e-mail campaign informed subscribers to Fortune, Business 2.0, People, Sports Illustrated, and Entertainment Weekly magazines of a new customer service site, and asked them to visit and update their profiles. Click-through rates were 30 percent higher for the certified messages than the non-certified, while log-ins at the site were 28 percent higher, according to the study.
"The increase in response rate was driven entirely by the icon and the full-links and images," said Goodmail's John Ouren, senior vice president of sales and business development. He estimated that all of the certified and non-certified e-mails were delivered, but that few to none of the non-certified e-mails arrived with links and images intact. (AOL's default settings disable images and links, unless consumers have previously had added the sender to their address book, or unless the sender participates in AOL's "enhanced whitelist" program.)
Earlier this year, Goodmail and AOL forged a controversial partnership for paid e-mail delivery. Under the program, AOL agreed to deliver e-mail certified by Goodmail with all links enabled and images intact.
The deal drew opposition from broad coalition of people and organizations, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Craigslist founder Craig Newmark, MoveOn.org Civil Action, labor union AFL-CIO, and the Democratic National Committee. They started an online petition urging AOL to reconsider the deal, arguing that it would amount to a "tax" on e-mail.
They argued that much legitimate e-mail currently is blocked by spam filters that wrongly identify wanted e-mail as spam, and argued that AOL now has a financial incentive to let those false-positives continue--and even proliferate--in hopes that senders will start paying for guaranteed delivery.
Yahoo also intends to start using Goodmail for certification services later this year--but that deal is only for transactional e-mail, such as bank statements and ticket confirmations, while AOL intends to use Goodmail for marketing and transactional e-mail.
Goodmail Tuesday also announced it was offering e-mail senders who wish to use its certification program a 90-day free trial period.