Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Too Much Email!

I am a boomer and for the last 10 years, email has been my favorite way to communicate in writing. However, nowadays, my email box is exploding – as the holidays approach, it’s looking more and more like my offline mailbox: stuffed, mostly with mail I am not interested in, much of which I never requested. I have my SPAM protection set to the highest level Yahoo affords, and it catches the truly offensive stuff. But I am receiving more, and more is getting through. Sound familiar?

According to the Pew Internet & American life Project, 92% of email users define spam as “unsolicited commercial email from a sender they do not know or cannot identify.” A quick look in my Junk folder from today shows I have received email from senders whose names are more like reiterations of the subject line than a sender. I received an email from “Oprah Breaking News” with the subject: “Oprahs #1 Superfood”, and one from “Flat Stomach Pill” about “Get Japanese Skinny! New Discovery shows...” OK, so there’s a pattern here - more than one marketer thinks I’m interested in weight and nutrition. I'm a boomer woman - no big insight there.

Point is, these emails hide the sender’s real identity – for all I know, they could actually be from the same sender. This type of sender naming convention makes it hard to block since it is email specific – I can only block it after I know the sender, i.e., after I’ve received the email. Odds are, the next email from that sender will be promoting another unwanted product or service, and the “from” will reflect that offer.

The Oprah email and others like it are designed to imply an endorsement, but I'm pretty sure Oprah has nothing to do with the Superfood email sender. How many emails have you received offering a gift card from a well-known store, but that is not from the store? I wish I could block these emails.

Unsubscribing is apparently a high-risk activity. While reputable emailers have a working unsubscribe function, they‘re not the ones to worry about. Yahoo recommends that to avoid spam, users should “never respond to the spam email's instructions to reply with the word 'remove' unless you trust or know the sender. Many spammers use the 'remove' or 'unsubscribe' links as a ploy to get you to react to the email. This may alert the sender that your email address is open and available to receive mail, which greatly increases its value. If you reply, your address may be placed on more lists, resulting in more spam.”

So, what alternatives do we have? A few family and friends have resorted to spam blocking software. But a recent Forrester study found that as unsolicited commercial e-mail volume increases, consumers are beginning to turn to social networking sites, texting and other communication channels. I’m not a technophobe – I’m experimenting with Twitter, I’m on Facebook, much to my teenagers’ dismay, and I’m text messaging. But so far, for me they just don’t compare to a long, full-text, late-night email.

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