A Bad Email Plan

    January 31, 2006
    WebProNews Staff

Goodmail Systems announced that AOL and Yahoo are going to implement their pay-to-play email authentication system. With the Goodmail service AOL, Yahoo and eventually numerous ISP’s would charge permission based newsletter publishers a fraction of a cent per email in excange for guaranteed delivery into a subscribers in-box. AOL has stated that this will ensure that a mailers images and links are not disabled. The sales pitch is that this is a better way to minimize spam and dangerous phishing emails.

And what exactly would publishers be paying for? Simply the right not to have their email publications distorted and made useless to subscribers by removing images and links. Paying a third party in order not to have my products messed with seem a little bit too much like a Sopranos episode to me.

As publishers we need to ask ourselves, does AOL have the right to distort our publications and damage our brands unless we pay? AOL Postmaster Charles Stiles told DM News, “You know how important [links and images] are for people for their branding, so it is easy for recipients to recognize brands and remember that they have signed up for the newsletter…”. In essence, AOL knows they are harming legitimate publishers brands … but they now have a solution, pay us and we won’t damage you.

Our newsletter subscribers asked to receive our emails. If an ISP takes on the service of offering email accounts, there is an expectation by the consumer that the ISP will not alter their email. An altered email deligitimizes a publishers brand and can cause the consumer to falsely report it as spam. AOL’s Stiles told ClickZ, “If they get a message from a sender that has images and links enabled one day, and another one the next day where they’re not, they tend not to trust that so much, or think there was an error. It sends an unclear message to the consumer,”.

Exactly … but is it fair to require legitimate publishers to pay every ISP in the world to make sure their brands aren’t F’d with?

So what is the plan here? Is it for all the major ISP’s to sign up for a single companies authentication service? Are publishers going to have to kick back to Goodmail for every email they send? And I forgot to mention the real motivation of ISP’s to use Goodmail … they get a cut of the fee. Anti-spam is the selling point but new money is what is truely driving AOL and Yahoo.

What AOL doesn’t seem to realize is that their paying subscribers will simply leave if they can’t get the email that they want. In the end only a fraction of publishers will pay … thus only a fraction of free newsletters will be delivered without alteration to AOL email accounts.

As an AOL customer, don’t I have the right to get newsletters unaltered that I subscribed to?

Goodmail has an admirable plan and if most ISP’s adapt this it could mean an end to spam and phishing … but at what cost? Possibly the end of free email newsletters, free customer updates and worst of all … the elimination of a consumers right to receive email that they chose to receive.

Maybe it’s time for a few million more AOL and Yahoo email users to switch to GMail! That’s the ticket.