Apr 16, 2019
The worst kind of spam is not what you might think.
Nigerian princes and "V1AGRA" sales might be annoying, but they're not the worst.
Something happened to me the other day – I got email in my inbox I didn’t want. I know what you’re thinking: who cares? I get like 20 a day.
Well, that’s why I wrote this – because we take it for granted.
There’s lots of ways you can get on a spam list: hackers, Nigerian princes…but let’s forget those for the moment. As much as the “V1AGRA” emails are annoying, there’s not much to do about them except promptly move them in the spam folder. I’m talking about the other kind of spam: marketing messaging.
I’m talking about the “grayhat” world of buying email lists or auto-opting in people into additional messaging by default.
It’s come to the point now that users, me included, no longer feel safe leaving their email addresses. I sign up for a blog or community I’m interested in, and all of a sudden, I start getting things that are only marginally (if at all) related.
Who’s to blame?
So who do we blame for this? Mailing list providers like Mailchimp? Big tech? The government?
The ones to blame are the bloggers, small-time website publishers or online businesses. I am going to come out and say it: it is not ok for a blogger to abuse my email address. And while companies have been the most impacted by legislation like GDPR and CASL, the common blog has managed to skirt under the radar. As much as I want to blame companies like Mailchimp, I cannot. People circumvent their legal policies, export an email list and sell it, or simply take inadequate percautions and have it skimmed from them.
A company I have had some interactions with recently flat out bought a list of Magento users in a given country from some sketchy website that likely stole them. They asked no questions of where the emails were from. If I had to guess, it came from some Magento community, like a newsletter or a blog.
And for the last few years, I have used my domain, fiiv.io for my email, and I use aliases to register for newsletters. For example, if I registered for Amazon, I’d use
[email protected]. So when one of those aliases starts to receive a lot of spam, I know they did something bad to it. Here’s an example email I sent to one website last year:
And their reply:
This website is a fairly well-known European newspaper-turned-online publication (in their country). At no point during registration did I opt in to any kind of 3rd party spam mail. And even if I did not uncheck this box in their awkward account dashboard, I should not have been opted in by default.
“But I’m a blogger and I don’t do this…”
I know you’re smart – you’re managing to gather subscribers through great content and smart marketing. You have a nice newsletter widget embedded on your blog. But the thing is, even if you have no intention of leaking personal data from it, it’s still possible if you have a CSV of your list sitting around on cloud storage or on your hard drive.
But as a blogger you can avoid this risk. You never actually need to see your subscriber list. If you do need it, it’s likely for other purposes than just sharing your content. And for that purpose you would need your reader’s explicit permission anyway.
Take off your blogger hat for a minute, and try thinking like a subscriber
You’re likely both, right? Most bloggers also follow other bloggers. Do you like it when they abuse your email with unwarranted messaging? When mysterious spam starts arriving in your inbox and you have no way of knowing which website accidentally leaked it?
I know I certainly don’t.
It’s time for a better way.
There are plenty of mailing list services out there. They will all work, but it means using them responsibly. Respect that email address, because there is a person behind it.
I was so tired of this kind of lawless behaviour that I even started my own service, Blogsend.io (the blog of which you are currently reading), to leave emails unaccessible to list owners.
From the perspective of the blogger, you do not need to even think about emails. I give you all the stats you will need to understand your audience. I track opens and clicks on a per-newsletter basis. And you see the aggregate number, so you know which newsletter’s content is the one that performs best.
And best of all it’s automated, so you can send emails with no extra work (through your RSS feed).
Don’t be a Nigerian prince. Retain and respect your readers the right way.