Email "Toll Booths" Coming Soon
Email "Toll Booths" Coming Soon
- by Jim Edwards
© Jim Edwards - All Rights reserved
The end of the free ride for email marketing looms on the
The days of building up or buying a big email list and
freely using it to market and sell online are numbered like
the dinosaurs heading for an ice age cold snap.
The technical and time costs of dealing with email traffic
(primarily driven by rampant illegal spam) will soon break
the back of both Internet service providers (ISPs) and
online email services.
Major online players like AOL and MSN are currently
wrestling with two solutions to the problem, but I
personally think the almighty dollar will win out in the
The two solutions proposed to stem the tide of commercial
spam once and for all revolve around either "white listing"
email senders or charging a "toll" (typically .25-1 cent per
email message) to allow email through.
Currently, ISPs and email providers can either maintain
their own white lists, as in the case of AOL, or the can
In the "old" days, companies could (and still do) subscribe
to "black lists" (like SpamHaus.org) which exclude email
senders based on reports of spamming and other factors.
Though the "black list" method rates the least accurate,
it's currently the most popular simply because it requires
the least effort by companies trying to block spam.
However, as spammers get smarter, black listing has proven
an ineffective spam deterrent and ISPs must get proactive if
they hope to survive.
However, an inherent weakness in the "white list" system
makes charging for commercial email inevitable.
Since white listing requires effort on the part of the ISP
or email provider (they must ultimately pay real people to
manage the list), this means additional cost.
Unlike a relatively inexpensive subscription to a "black
list service" which gets implemented automatically by
software filters, white listing requires people to do work
which carries a real world cost.
Bottom line: most ISPs and email services will not be able
to create, maintain or implement a white list for very long
Yet, consumers tired of the avalanche of spam are demanding
effective protection by those they pay for Internet and
Thus, any service hoping to survive long-term must adopt a
hybrid of both the white list and "toll booth" approaches.
This means not only evaluating the legitimacy of every
commercial email sender's methods, but also charging them
for the email they send through a particular service or
network. It's inevitable.
Now, the cry that immediately goes up at this point sounds
like this, "What about the "little guys" who can't afford to
pay the fee or the family newsletters that aren't
commercial? What about them?"
In a perfect world, their email would go through.
In the real world, their email will get lost even more
frequently in the future than it does now in the existing
tangle of email filters and inconsistent white and black
The hope of survival and prosperity for the "little guy"
lies squarely in the hands of blogging and RSS feeds.
Since blogging and rss feeds enable consumers to subscribe
directly to information using an RSS "reader," they
completely bypass the need to send email.
This eliminates the "middle man" of an email provider and
puts control over what content gets received squarely in the
hands of the consumer.
Though this technology has existed for several years now,
awareness by mainstream consumers of what RSS feeds are and
how to subscribe to them has been relatively slow.
The biggest contributor to the slow adoption in the
mainstream has been the absence of a universally distributed
RSS "reader" on every computer (similar to how Outlook or
Outlook Express on every Windows PC helped make email
But that should also change shortly as more RSS readers get
included in Web browsers and email programs in the near
So while the "big guys" will push their messages to
consumers by paying what will surely amount to an ever-
increasing "toll" to get their emails through, the "little
guys" will "pull" consumers to them with subscriptions to
blogs and RSS feeds.
Whether it happens this year, next year, or the year after -
make no mistake - the email "toll booth" is coming for
commercial emailers and newsletter publishers.
So, if you depend on sending email for your company's
profits, either get ready, plan, and budget for the new
tolls, or start making arrangements to distribute your
content via blogs and RSS feeds, because the market will
shortly force you to make a choice.
Jim Edwards is a syndicated newspaper columnist and the
co-author of an amazing new ebook that will teach you how
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