Welcome To The Real World

With all the news over the last few weeks of the cyber acquisitions -- Hitwise, Third Screen Media, DoubleClick, aQuantive -- it's easy to get lulled into the feeling that the whole world has gone interactive.

Not so.

This week I'm up at the ACCM (Annual Conference for Catalog & Multichannel Merchants), and in many ways it is like traveling back in time. This is a place where call centers rule and publications are printed the way God intended: on paper.

Last night I spoke with a sales rep from a large specialty publication media company. I started talking about email --and the sales rep told me it was something that they just haven't gotten around to. "We have over 6 million people on our lists, but only 300,000 signed up for email. We had a problem with our double opt-ins, and our Web site doesn't really work right." They just hadn't gotten around to spending the time, money and energy to fix their interactive issue, and if the attitude of the rep I talked with is any indication, they felt there was no real urgency to do so.



And at a time where I think the last thing the world needs is another article on growing your email list, I'm surrounded by niche catalog merchants who are still thinking print and seem clueless about how email works or how to get started. It is like stepping into a land that time forgot.

I find myself wanting to shake these folks up: Don't you know that email drives most of the traffic around the Web? Don't you know that consumers of specialty goods and interests are searching the Web for those goods and interests, and forming social networking sites to exchange information?

But maybe it's me that has the problem. With ISPs battling each other and refusing to agree on common reputation and deliverability standards, can you blame someone for just wanting to put a stamp on the envelope to insure their message gets delivered? Can a small specialty publication deal with the time it takes to remain compliant, get delivered, and not get sued by some crazy anti-email gunslinger?

Maybe they know something that those of us in the interactive world don't: that it shouldn't have to be this hard, that individual companies and individuals shouldn't be deciding whose mail gets delivered and who has a warehouse of wilting flowers because their email wasn't delivered at Mother's Day.

Put on stamp. Go to post office. Delivery guaranteed. That is the way it's supposed to work in the Real World.

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