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Dec 18, 2002
How To

Another Klez Warning: Why Some AOL 8.0 Suggested Workarounds Are Bad Ideas

SUMMARY: This week some (very) bad advice started circulating around the Net
about how marketers should handle AOL 8.0. Our Tech Editor
Alexis Gutzman wrote this useful guide for everyone who is
concerned about the impact the new AOL version may have on their
lists.

Yes, she thoughtfully included a screenshot of the new AOL format
for all you old-timers who are far too cool to have your own AOL
accounts.
By Tech Editor Alexis Gutzman

Although you may not use AOL, but it would not hurt to see what your
customers and subscribers who do use it are seeing. Click over to http://www.MarketingSherpa.com/images/aol8.jpg

This is the email interface for AOL 8. Notice the "Report Spam"
button at the bottom. Notice, also, its proximity to the
"Delete" button.

AOL has also introduced message typing. Users can sort email by
"Type." The type indicator also plays a role if users enable mail
controls (a.k.a. spam filtering). There are three types: Friends,
AOL messages, and bulk mailers. Even if you are whitelisted with
AOL, you are going to appear as a bulk mailer in most users'
inboxes (assuming they ever figure out what those little icons
mean).

==> Mail Controls: Should You Care?

"Mail Controls" are the part of the new AOL that they have
probably been pushing the hardest. I have to tell you, however,
that I do not think this is going to be used by many. The
interface gives users far too many options. Given the average
level of competence of AOL users, and the fact that AOL has
always made it easy for them to avoid any tech-heavy-lifting, I
do not see many people completing the wizard to enable mail
controls.

(You can see the mail controls screen at
http://www.MarketingSherpa.com/images/aol8-controls.jpg
.

The
language is nice and friendly, but five radio buttons on one
screen, have they forgotten why their core audience is so
loyal?

At any rate, some people are going to navigate through this maze
of mail controls, and are going to figure out that they can
reduce their email volume by configuring their accounts only to
accept email from people they have ever sent email to (presumably
their friends) and any domain they have whitelisted (their favorite newsletters).

If you are trying to make your way into the inboxes of this elite
subset of AOL users, then you have cause for concern.

It has been suggested that the best thing to do is to get users
(particularly AOL users) to opt-in to your newsletter or
marketing alerts by sending you a message instead of completing a
form on your Web site. This can be done one of two ways:

1. By instructing people on your site to send you a message
to subscribe (Bad Idea, see why below)
2. By configuring the submit button on your subscribe form
to open their email client with a message already
addressed to you using something like "mailto:join-
yoursite@yoursite.com." (Also a Bad Idea.)

==> Klez Still Poses a Threat

Unless you run a confirmed opt-in list, I strongly recommend that
you not switch from a Web-based form to an email-based
subscription system (using either technique described above).

You will recall that we ironed out a system of creating a one-click
forward-to-a-friend link for your newsletters that does rely on
email, so it is not email per-say that causes concern. It's Klez.

With the system we ironed out, your email address would never be
in your subscribers' or readers' email systems. (Parts I and II
at http://www.MarketingSherpa.com/sample.cfm?ContentID=2168 &
http://www.MarketingSherpa.com/sample.cfm?ContentID=217
. There's a
small fee that goes to support this newsletter.)

When you put your email address into your subscriber's email
boxes, even if only in their sent mail folders, you open
yourself up to complaints of spamming from those whose addresses
Klez sends to your subscribe address in the course of its
dastardly ways.

Lest you think Klez is last year's news, in the last two weeks
I have heard from two readers who received Klez with the from
address of one of our newsletters, and a Klez-type subject line.
For more on the dangers of Klez, read this:
http://www.MarketingSherpa.com/sample.cfm?ContentID=201
(again,
there's a small fee).

Before you make any hasty decisions about switching how you
accept opt-ins on your Web site to get yourself on the
trusted-friends list of AOL users, consider the consequences.
In recent conversation with other owners of confirmed opt-in
lists (such as this one), we have heard that as many as 30% of the
addresses that opt in once never confirm. When pressed as to why
this would be, they surmise that many of those who are apparently
subscribed are actually subscribed by Klez.

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