There’s been a huge amount of discussion about America Online and Yahoo’s plans to start using a system that gives preferential treatment to email messages from companies that pay for delivery. As is typical, there are arguments both for and against the idea of “email postage.”
Some of the arguments “against” may be missing the point.
One of the “against” camps says spammers will simply pay to reach us, like direct marketers do with snail mail. This is wrong because the proposed “pay for guaranteed delivery” offered by Goodmail is for opt-in email only.
Another “against” camp says that personal email will now not get through. However, email servers are good at discriminating between bulk mail with commercial text versus personal communication, and address book “white lists” help. Email servers are not always good at recognizing bulk email that the user has actually requested, which the Goodmail scheme hopes to correct.
The most interesting objection relates to spammers learning to create fake stamps. I wouldn’t put it past them.
Personally, I’m not in either the “for” or “against” camp. I simply don’t care.
More on that in a minute.
Seth Godin, who originated permission-based email marketing at Yoyodyne (acquired by Yahoo in 1998), has been advocating this type of thing for years. In his first post on the news of the quarter-cent per email plans, he says “If you can’t cost-justify that, you shouldn’t be writing to me.”
At first that rubbed me the wrong way. There are a lot of solo entrepreneurs and small businesses to whom this is likely a slap in the face. It’s hard enough to build an opt-in list. Now you will be required to pay to reach that list, after the sweat and toil required to build it.
But then I did the math, and realized Seth is right. It’s not that big an expense, based on the proposed per-email charge. And I should probably get behind this pay-for-play idea so that people will understand just how important good copy is to communicating with prospects.
Here’s the rub, though. I’ve never met a publicly-traded corporation that didn’t crave more of a good thing, and that good thing is money. When you dance with the devil, he always gets to lead… and this per-email charge will increase as fast as the market will allow.
I’ve never enjoyed corporations of any size telling me what to do. So I usually find an end around.
Have you figured out yet why I don’t care about email postage? That’s right – because in this case, the “end around” is superior to the problem.
For content delivery and opt-in marketing, RSS is simply better. And no one can ever charge you or interfere with this direct, opt-in channel to your readers and prospects.
I discussed the email postage issue over the weekend with Raj Dash of the RSS Cases blog. With regard to the control issue, he put it this way:
As long as the “little guy” has a text editor, he can create a web feed. As long as Internet users can find a (free or paid) RSS/ Atom feed reader, they can read your feed.
Now of course this leads right back into the argument that “RSS is not ready for primetime”, and “we still need email to reach the masses.” Of course, this argument is correct.
My challenge to you is to quit being complacent regarding the speed of RSS adoption. Start educating your readers about the benefits of RSS over email subscriptions. Steal my RSS tutorial if you want, but take matters into your own hands.
If you feel like global corporations will necessarily determine your destiny, you fail to grasp how empowering the Internet currently is. This won’t be the last time large corporations try to exert control over this medium. There’s a lot more coming.
Don’t let big companies extort money from you to reach people who have already asked to hear from you. Use RSS.
Let’s not wait for Microsoft to educate the masses about RSS. Let’s do it ourselves.
Who’s writing this script? Us, or the Fortune 500?