"Are Spam Filters Crippling Ezines?"

Jul 16 21:00 2002 Bob McElwain Print This Article

Awhole bunch of ezines you send to your ... are ... ... software has been ... like ... ISP to ISP. The ... these programs make are ... control. The

whole bunch of ezines you send to your subscribers are being
trashed. Filtering software has been spreading like wildfire
from ISP to ISP. The decisions these programs make are beyond
your control. The question is,Guest Posting "Are you out of business?"
1049 words; 6.2K
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By Bob McElwain

The growing use of software to filter incoming email to
an ISP has added an unanswerable question: How many subscribers
receive your ezine? For several years now, I've ignored
subscriber list totals. The data is fuzzy when you look
at numbers held, numbers not delivered, and so forth. I track
only the number of successful deliveries. However, this number
is now much less meaningful.

Many (most?) ISPs have installed email filters to block spam
and that other stuff I can't mention for fear of being blocked.
If those filters bounced back to the mailing service, the
addresses could be eliminated. Most are only trashed into the
big black hole of cyberspace. So there's no telling how many
don't get through.

Some are bounced back to me personally. Unfortunately, no
email address is provided, so I can't remove it from my list.
I get a particular hoot out of this, when they've blocked my
newsletter, calling it spam. I wonder what they're calling
the stuff they send to me.

Moral Irresponsibility In Action

Such software is a great example of irresponsibility in
action. And the lack of ethics and morality of which we see
far too much. The 'gods' (programmers?) have decreed we're
at the mercy of computer algorithms which are primitive at best.

Analyzing the meaning of a statement in English with a
computer is still in its infancy, even though many powerful
minds have been working at it for many years. Current
software assumes related problems have been resolved, which
is absurd.

Here's What Has Happened To Me

Beginning in November in 2001, I began to notice a fall off
in responses to "STAT News." Both to ads, and comments emailed
to me. I didn't pay much attention at first, for things like
this fluctuate.

But I did check seriously in December. Definitely down in
both areas. During January and February, I was pretty much out
of things due to some heavy surgery. I didn't really get back
up to speed until March. By then, the downtrend in the response
rate over November last year was very noticeable. Certainly in
excess of 15% by any measure.

Blocking Software To The Rescue?

By March, it was also clear spam blocking software was the
current rage. I believe this accounts for the drop in response
I have seen. Here's why.

Email response to the newsletter dropped by the same
percentage as ad response. I track ad response accurately with
software. So the only place for error in making this statement
is in misjudging email response. My answer to that was to check
trash and count. The percentages were almost identical,
although there's not enough data to be certain.

If only ad response had dropped off, I'd have decided I
needed new ads. But when both dropped by the same percentage,
I had to charge it off to the spam filters.

An Up Close And Personal Experience

My ISP installed a filtering package along about April of
this year. I was "automatically" enrolled. This meant I got
to visit the site and look at the blocked mail. Much more
time consuming than doing so in my mailing program. Curious,
however, I let it run for a time.

Surprise! Over a 9 day period, I found almost 30 messages
from acquaintances, friends, peers, visitors, and subscribers
blocked. Beyond notifying them that it happened, I was
completely unable to say why. My hunch was, and remains,
inadequate computing routines. Or inadequate programmers
creating them.

When I'd had enough, I turned the filters off. Guess I
should be thankful I had that option. Shoot, some folks that
mean a lot to me, only write a couple times a year. And I sure
don't want to miss these messages.

Another List

I maintain a mailing list of people to whom I send my
articles each week. In one mailing, about half a dozen were
sent back to me from AOL. Reason: Invalid DNS pointers.
Gee. I wonder how visitors are reaching my site.

As mentioned, most of the mail filtered out is simply
trashed. So there's no way to get a handle on this problem.
I'd willingly delete email addresses, if they were returned to
me. But if these packages wanted to play fair, they'd bounce
to my mail list server. But being fair is not their objective.


Many have decided to send only a brief message that points
to a URL for an HTML version of the ezine. This won't work for
all subscribers. Many don't want to move from handling email
to jump onto the Web. Page views will demonstrate wether or
not this is so for you.

Another plan is to refer to an autoresponder for a copy of
the current issue. I don't see how this helps, for the content
mailed will have to get through the same filter your newsletter
would have faced directly.

Further, both ideas fail when the filtering catches
something in the headers it doesn't like. As with AOL claiming
my DNS pointers were flawed. Or a blacklisted IP address. How
to beat such happenings is totally beyond me.

A Possible Maybe

I know many don't like attachments, but here's a thought.
Send a message which has no content. Just identify the
newsletter in the subject field by name. (It has been suggested
we use our full name in the From field, but I've been doing this

Let the message contain only the URL to your HTML version.
And include a .TXT version as an attachment. A click will load
it to an editor on most systems. Again, though, if the
"obscene" content is in the header, the message won't go

My Plan

I see no better alternative than to continue to grow my list
and mail to it. I'll simply have to factor in a number for
those arbitrarily trashed. If those into this kind of thing
come up with a number, my hunch is that it will be about 25%.

When I adjust my email and ad response by 25%, the numbers
agree with those in pervious years. Not fact, of course. But

Whatever this number proves to be, I'll live with it.
And seek to be content with the percentage delivered.

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Bob McElwain
Bob McElwain

Bob McElwain, author of "Your Path To Success" and
"Secrets To A Really Successful Website." For
info, see

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