The Dirty Secret of Email Marketing and Internet Service Providers

The Dirty Secret of Email Marketing and Internet Service Providers

SPAMThere’s a dirty secret in the Email Industry. It’s the elephant in the room that no one talks about. No one can talk about it for fear of retribution by the very people who are supposed to be policing our Inbox.


That’s right. You heard it right here. I’ll repeat it…


One more time…


But Doug… what are you saying? That’s terrible! That defies what the entire industry tells us. It defies what ISPs tell us. It defies what ESPs tell us. It even defies what we know about SPAM.

The truth is that SPAM is not unsolicited email. SPAM is not email that is sent without permission. What SPAM is is unwanted email. UNWANTED.

Today, I can sign up for an email from a reputable source, called GOODMSG. I provide them my permission to send me emails as often as they would like, even allowing them in fine print, to send me offers on behalf of companies they ‘do business with’.

  • GOODMSG provides their company address on every email.
  • GOODMSG has a feedback loop set up that automatically unsubscribes unwanteds.
  • GOODMSG prominently displays an unsubscribe link.
  • GOODMSG enables reverse DNS lookup.
  • GOODMSG applies to be whitelisted with every Internet Service Provider (that offers).
  • GOODMSG enlists Deliverability Consultants to maintain communications with the ISPs.

After I get 6 months of email, I click the Junk Email button of my ISP when GOODMSG sends a lame offer. Other subscribers do the same.

Guess what?!

GOODMSG, the reputable advertiser, just became a SPAMMER. Permission-based, double-optin, CAN-SPAM compliant, 1-click unsubscribe… they did everything right, but now they are a SPAMMER.

As a SPAMMER, they are blacklisted. Their IP address is now blocked. Their other clients who want the email won’t get it. Their reputation is ruined. Perhaps they switch to a new ESP. Perhaps they switch to a new IP address. They have to do something, since their email can’t make it to the Inbox. Perhaps they even go out of business. Their crime? A weak, UNWANTED, message.

Who’s to blame for this? GOODMSG? The subscriber?


Who is to blame is the Internet Service Provider, specifically, the key Email agent-providing ISPs – Yahoo!, Google, Live (Hotmail, MSN), AOL. They are to blame because they have failed to protect us against real SPAM. They utilize flawed reputation systems, they don’t share data, they don’t provide tools for reputable sources to become good stewards. Instead, they ignore the billions and billions of emails sent by the real SPAMMERS who don’t follow the rules, don’t care about reputation, don’t care about permission, cycle their IP Addresses and bypass all of the checks and balances that reputable marketers utilize.

It’s a lot like the Drug-Free Signs at the local High School. The only people that are Drug-Free are the people who were already Drug-Free. The drug dealers still walk the sidewalks and hallways, laughing at the signs as they pass them by.

I spoke about permission earlier. The problem with permission is that there is no system in place for ISPs to ensure that you provided permission. ESPs require permission as a stop-gap against the risk of poor deliverability and junk email reporting. However, the ISP and ESP NEVER share the process of permission.

Someone needs to begin asking why. Someone needs to answer to the billions of SPAM messages that flow right through while the ‘good’ emails can’t get through and businesses suffer. The ISPs go on and on about permission, permission, permission. They don’t care about permission… they only care about how many people click that junk email button. That’s all they have to work with. As a marketer, put out a bad email message to your subscribers, and watch out! You’ll be blocked and labeled a SPAMMER in no time.


  1. Provide Opt-In APIs for any Email Service Provider or Advertiser who wishes to responsibly send email.
  2. Share Opt-In data with other ISPs to ensure responsible marketers aren’t penalized.
  3. Stop SPAMMERS from using ISPs to send email! Did you know that the United States is the worst SPAMMER? Are you really telling me that we can find a child pornographer in hours but SPAMMERS can operate for years? You’re telling me that monitoring hardware can’t see and stop this incredible volume of traffic?
  4. If I allowed people to transport drugs in my car, I’d be in jail. How come the ISPs that transport SPAM aren’t being held accountable?
  5. Provide a means for emails to be GUARANTEED delivery to the Inbox. Email is no longer a secondary means of communication. I get credit alerts and banking alerts in my inbox. It’s unconscionable that these emails would ever wind up in a Junk Email folder.

If UPS, FedEx and the USPS stopped showing up to your warehouse to ship out your products, you’d be suing them. Someone is going to sue an ISP soon for not delivering email that was permission-based and followed every rule. These companies need to be held accountable for this mess they got us into and refuse to get us out of

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