Blog Herald gets it wrong on spam

I like The Blog Herald. I really, really do.  But it has got it badly wrong this time. It’s claiming that an email sent by Eric Olsen at FeedBurner is spam. Why? Get real.

Spam is the rubbish about unwanted pharmaceuticals, knock-off software and disgusting websites. An unsolicited email about a service in my sphere of interest is legitimate direct marketing.

Despite the wonders of blogs, RSS, social media and the whole Web 2.0 thing you still need direct marketing. It’s good that a new company with an interesting product tries to spread the word. I’ve spoken to bloggers who’ve never heard of FeedBurner and would have been interested to receive news about this potentially useful service.

Aaron Wall at Threadwatch gives the game away when he says "I can’t imagine any tech savvy person who has been on the web more than 3
months calling a to whom it may concern marketing email like that anything but
email spam".

The key phrase for me is "tech savvy". Sorry guys but the internet, the web, blogs etc are no longer the private domain of the "tech savvy". Lots of bloggers and every day people wouldn’t call it email spam. They would think it interesting.

Thinking that the world has to pander to the "tech savvy" is simply pretentious bull.

I’m not saying that FeedBurner’s email is a brilliant piece of direct marketing. It isn’t. There are lots of things they could do better. The "To whom it may concern" is bad, a personal name it always better, but sometimes in direct marketing it can be the only realistic option (although they should have sounded a bit less formal). They didn’t blast it to a random list (which would have been spam) but to "high-trafficked blogs" – people to whom it was relevant.

In the real world of small budgets and tight deadlines you can’t do everything as well as you want to. Sometimes it just has to be good enough.


About Stuart Bruce

International communications consultant and PR trainer specialising in online public affairs, digital corporate communications, online PR and social media; frequent national media commentator and conference speaker.
  • http://www.feedburner.com/ Rick Klau

    Yeah, this was a dumb mistake – the email was personalized for most of the people to whom we sent messages, but for a few it wasn't. And the resulting email – starting "to whom it may concern" – wasn't the best approach.

    You can see the email I sent to Aaron at Threadwatch here:

    http://www.threadwatch.org/node/5552#comment

    which laid out what we're trying to do, and admitting that we can do better. :)

    Thanks for the comments, please keep in touch.

    Regards,

    Rick

    —-
    Rick Klau
    VP, Business Development
    FeedBurner – http://www.feedburner.com
    rickk@feedburner.com
    AIM/Y!/Skype: RickKlau
    office: 312.756.0022 x2012
    direct: 312.239-0727
    cell: 630.362.8911

  • http://www.fightsplog.com Toivo Lainevool

    No, Feedburner got it wrong. This was spam, pure and simple. Email spam is any unsolicited bulk email. Was the email unsolicited? Yes. Was it bulk? Yes. I don't see any way of saying this was not spam. Feedburner should be apologizing for its mistake, not defending it.

  • http://www.feedbuzzard.com/ Rick Blythe

    I'm sorry Stuart, but I whole-heartedly disagree with you.

    Whether an email is Spam is not determined by the content within it, but by the way it is delivered, period.

    Was the email un-solicited? Yes.
    Was the email bulk? Yes.

    That's all there is to it.

  • http://www.petertdavis.net Peter T Davis

    It was spam. Just because you like the company that sent it doesn't make it anything other than spam. Your "potentially useful service" explanation is rather weak too, as we can say the same about Viagra and many anther "potentially useful service" that we hear about in our email boxes every day.

  • http://www.cardcommunications.com/blog Kelly

    I'm afraid the blog herald and people commenting are correct: spam is legally defined as unsolicited bulk email – doesn't matter if it's targeted or relevant to the user, if there is no permission, it's spam.

    I see your point about the direct marketing, BUT there are other more effective (not to mention legal) ways to reach new prospects via email rather than blasting out a generic email to random high-traffic bloggers.

    I know you are in the UK, and I don't know what the laws are there, but in the US and Canada there are laws against emailing anyone you do not at least have a prior business relationship with.