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Feb 04, 2002
Blog Post

Email List Rental Business: More on the Ugly Underbelly

SUMMARY: No summary available.
Boy - my Blog of 1/30/02 about the ugly underbelly of the email list rental business has generated a lot of positive feedback. I'm feeling like the Fox News of Internet marketing. But, hey, it's all true and people should know. Here's a letter you'll enjoy from Sherpa reader Ben Chestnut of MailChimp:

I run a product that helps small companies deliver HTML emails. I've found that whenever a client uses a rented list (and not the list they collected on their own site), spam complaints skyrocket, and we get all kinds of warnings from the spamcops and blackhole list sites. They end up getting so burned, that they never go back to rental lists.

It got to the point where we now don't allow rented lists anymore---our users have to check a box that verifies that "all recipients specifically requested this email from me." Users in violation of this rule get their accounts shut down. My advice to all my clients is to stay the heck away from rented lists, and to collect your own. It's the only way to get meaningful results, and the only way to NOT offend a bunch of people, and taint your brand."

Ben also forwarded a link to The Story of Nadine, which I swear you absolutely have to click on. This real story starts when a woman mis-enters her email address into an opt-in form on a sweepstakes site in March 2000. The head of the ISP that the confirmation was sent to, noted that it was a bad address and alerted the list owner. The name was then sold on to be used by more than a dozen email marketers including Harris Polls, OurHouse, SmarterKids, AT&T and Topica. As of February 2, 2002 almost two years after the initial mis-spelled opt-in, this email address has received 100s of messages from marketers.

Worst of all, although the ISP has repeatedly requested various list owners and list users to remove the name from their lists, the mail keeps on coming. Plus some of the players involved - who either rented the list or allowed their list host systems to be used to send messages to that name-- include several proponents of the new Truste anti-spam certificate: 24/7, Bigfoot Interactive and Virtumundo.

My advice after reading the many letters readers sent in is, check every single opt-in source yourself before renting a list. I know if you have to get messages out to millions of names a week to meet your goals, that's almost impossible. But it's the only way to be safe.
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