Anne Holland

AOL Employee Stole Email List

June 23rd, 2004

Is your house email list really, really safe? If this happened to AOL, it certainly can happen to you. From a press release sent at 4:42 today:

“Earlier this year, AOL began litigation against a major spammer, and in the process of which, discovered that an AOL employee had stolen member screennames in 2003, which AOL believes were used to send junk email. AOL has uncovered no information indicating that this theft involved member credit card or password information stored by AOL. AOL rapidly brought this information to the attention of federal law enforcement, and this morning the AOL employee was arrested and charged with criminal activity relating to the theft of these screenames.”

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Anne Holland

NewsStand Gets $7.2 in Funding

June 23rd, 2004

Good news keeps coming in for companies who are looking for additional venture-capital funding. NewsStand Inc., which delivers digital copies of major print publications such as USA Today, just nailed down $7.2 million from Adams Capital Management, whose partners include the New York Times, one of NewsStand’s content partners.

NewsStand said it would use the money for “marketing and sales initiatives” to boost worldwide market penetration and to “perfect its digital reading experience through Web and print integration,” President/CEO Kit Webster said.

Visit NewsStand here.

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Anne Holland

Bulk Emailers Told: 'Don't Harvest Addresses'

June 22nd, 2004

That’s one of the best-practices recommendations the Big Four — AOL, Yahoo!, Microsoft and EarthLink — issued today in a report outlining their best ways to fight spam.

None of the recommendations breaks any new ground for legitimate, ethical bulk emailers, as you can see from this list:

* Do not harvest e-mail addresses through SMTP or other means (defined as collecting e-mail addresses, usually by automated means) without the owners’ affirmative consent.
* Register your e-mail domain with a creditable safelist provider.
* Always provide clear instructions to customers about how to unsubscribe or opt-out of receiving e-mail. Promptly respond to these requests.
* Do not use or send e-mail that contains invalid or forged headers.
* Do not use or send e-mail that contains invalid or nonexistent domain names in the From or Reply-To headers.
* Do not employ any technique to hide or obscure any information that identifies the true origin or the transmission path of bulk e-mail.
* Do not use a third party’s Internet domain name or allow mail to be relayed from or through a third party’s equipment without permission.
* Do not send e-mail that contains false or misleading information in the subject line or in its content.
* Monitor SMTP responses from recipients’ mail servers. Promptly remove all e-mail addresses for which the receiving mail server responds with a 55x SMTP error code (e.g., “user doesn’t exist”).

Each site has a copy of the report and the press release. For brevity, here’s the Yahoo! report. We’ll post the rest shortly.

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Anne Holland

Seybold Marketing Tactic: Switch Paid Ezine to Free!

June 22nd, 2004

One good way to promote paid online content is to give a bit of it away in a free ezine. Seybold Seminars, Publications and Consulting, which covers the print publishing industry, is now giving away one whole ezine — the weekly Seybold Bulletin: News and Views on Professional Publishing Tools for print and Web publishers — to promote its other offerings.

“Making the Seybold Bulletin available to the entire Seybold community will make this publication a forum for everyone involved in any publishing discipline,” Cynthia Wood, Seybold Publications editor, said in a press release.

MediaLive International, Seybold’s parent company, also said it has redesigned the 100K-sub ezine, its companion to the bimonthly Seybold Report, and subscribed its paid users to that publication instead.

Check out the newly free ezine here.

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Anne Holland

Gmail Watch Week 6: Just Launch It Already, Willya?

June 21st, 2004

We are so ready to have Google launch Gmail, if only so it will stop all the Kremlin-watching from the news media (us excluded, of course).

MarketingSherpa was the first big trade pub to scrutinize Gmail’s ad impact and analyze its potential impact on you and your email campaigns. (AND give you screenshots (with Google’s permission) so you could see for yourself what the interface, copy and ads look like.)

Now everybody’s getting into the act, especially the New York Times with its latest investigation (register first) analyzing which emails get which ads and which ones don’t. This article does go deep down into which ads show up where but doesn’t shed all that much new light.

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Anne Holland

Having no competition is a very bad sign for a launch

June 18th, 2004

I just had to share this quote from today’s issue of InfoCommerce Report, with which I absolutely, completely agree:

“Over our past decade of consulting to the directory industry, we’ve determined there are a few red flag phrases that invariably mark a bad idea for a new directory product. The first phrase, used to describe the inspiration for the concept is, “because there’s nothing else like it.” If this phrase is followed by “everyone will use it” as a description of the target market, you know you’ve got an absolute, guaranteed failure in the making.

Absence of an established directory in the proposed market should be a signal for concern, not jubilation.”

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Anne Holland

Gmail Watch Week 5: UPDATED

June 17th, 2004

Nothing tells Gmail users they’ve got email in their spam folders. Okay, this isn’t news — we reported in the June 3 MarketingSherpa (link below) — but nobody else seems to be as bothered about it as we are, so we’re going to repeat it here:

If you get an email that (rightly or wrongly) Gmail’s filters determine is spam, it goes to a spam folder. Unlike most other Web email systems, though, the interface doesn’t indicate you have messages in the spam folder or how many, the way Yahoo! (its main competitor so far) does.

Yahoo! recently took away the last incentives that would force a user to at least go into and clear the spam folder when it decided not to count spam email against the user’s total storage capacity and then boosted free users to 100MB. And, it clears out any spam and trash the user hasn’t already dumped, so email that gets routed to the spam folder will likely die unnoticed, and you won’t even get a bounce notice (until the user abandons the mailbox).

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Anne Holland

MarketingSherpa RSS Feed Launches (Plus, How to Add Our Headlines to Your Site)

June 17th, 2004

Thanks entirely to your ceaseless nudging emails (you all know who you are), I asked our Web Tech Christian Vanek to switch priorities this week to bring you an RSS-feed.

If you don’t know what an RSS-feed is, please keep reading…. However if you’re one of the RSS-cognoscenti, and you’d like to add our feed to your reader, here’s the XML URL you should cut and paste:

http://www.marketingsherpa.com/rss/msherpa_rss.rss

For RSS-newbies: if you click on the link above, all you’ll see is a blank screen. To make it work, you need to install a reader on your computer. It’s quick, it’s easy, and many readers are entirely complimentary.

There are close to 100 readers out there (which I find a little confusing.) Three of my favorites are at:
http://www.pluck.com
http://www.newsgator.com
http://reader.rocketinfo.com/desktop/

When you have a reader, it means every time you see a little “XML” or “RSS” or “Syndic8” icon on a blog or news site you like, you can click on it and thereafter have that site’s hotlinked headlines sent automatically to a special reader in-box on your computer. Plus, there’s no junk email (yet anyway.)

You can also use handy tools to add RSS feeds to appear on your own Web site or intranet. So, you could add our headlines to your site very easily. One place that helps with that is http://www.feedroll.com

If you’d like more info about RSS in general and/or to see some screenshots what readers look like, you can check out the handy article our MarketingSherpa Editor wrote earlier this year:
http://www.marketingsherpa.com/sample.cfm?contentID=2606
(Open access)

Thanks for your support (and your nudges.)

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Anne Holland

Gmail Watch Week 5: AdSense Users Get Invites

June 17th, 2004
Latest Gmail developments and concerns:

— Google has now invited its AdSense advertisers to try Gmail. That“s an additional minimum 60K more users into the system, which is still invitation-only, but indicates the company continues to expand the testing-user base slowly but surely. We just got our next round of invitations to hand out. Anybody want one?

— Google“s obviously not deduping its database to weed out people who get sent more than one invitation.

MarketingSherpa Publisher Anne Holland already has a Gmail account but just got invited by someone else to open one. “That“s dumb,” she said.

Another glitch: If you remember your user name but forget your password, Gmail can help you. If you forget your user name, you are SOL.

Now, combine that with a 9-month lifespan for dormant accounts, and you could be emailing to a dead account (but a live address) for 9 months.

There is a workaround — Gmail automatically puts the email address of everyone who accepts your invitations into your contact list (along with everyone to whom you“ve sent email from your Gmail address. That“s a bonus for whitelisting). So you just have to track down the person who sent you an invite to see what address they have for you. Not that Gmail will tell you.

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Anne Holland

AOL Whitelisting Change (the real story)

June 16th, 2004

AOL announced earlier this month that bulk senders who want to stay on its whitelist would have to start using a program called SPF (for Sender Policy Framework) to authenticate the email they send.

(If you’re not the email tech guru at your company, you should know that SPF is, at its most basic, a line of code that gets published in your Domain Name Server information. ISPs can look up that code to verify that you really are who you say you are and not a spoofer, phisher or forger who doesn’t have authority to use that email address.)

Industry publications began reporting that as an edict from AOL that bulk senders should start publishing their SPF records now or else get booted off the whitelist.

We asked AOL for the straight story. Here’s what Carl Hutzler, AOL’s anti-spam director told us:

“We are asking people already on our whitelist (and newcomers) to set-up SPF records to simply help the ‘management’ of the IP based whitelist. It has nothing to do with qualifying a person to be on our whitelist or negatively affecting their mail if they do not have SPF.

“SPF simply is a way to publish outbound mail server IP addresses, which is exactly what AOL needs to whitelist someone. Instead of a whitelisted organization having to update AOL every time an IP address changes (server gets shut down, returned on lease, etc.), if the organization uses SPF, they can maintain their own list of legit servers and AOL can query their SPF DNS record to get any updates (perhaps once a day or so).

“We do not have a timeframe for AOL to implement SPF on our inbound systems yet. End of summer is what we are targeting. But this has almost nothing to do with the whitelisting feature. We aim to begin using SPF in our whitelist update processes in the next month or so.”

You can get more information at AOL’s Postmaster page.

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