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Wed, Oct 01, 2003 - Page 12 News List

Spam to account for 60 percent of e-mail

NEW IDEAS The report from Gartner Inc says that unless marketers come up with better ways of soliciting customers, most junk mail will be blocked

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Spam will account for 60 percent of all e-mail traffic by the middle of next year, rising from half this year and threatening efforts of legitimate marketers to reach potential customers, market researcher Gartner Inc said.

Marketers must act immediately to distinguish their e-mail pitches from junk e-mail or risk being blocked by content managers, spam-blocking software and Internet service providers, Gartner said in a statement. Such barriers will undermine 80 percent of all e-mail marketing campaigns by 2005, the researcher said.

Companies that send vast quantities of "low-value," low-cost e-mails among the 60 billion forecast to be sent each day by 2005 can avoid being blocked by asking Internet users for permission to message them and by personalizing what's delivered, Adam Sarner, the Gartner research analyst who wrote the report, said in an interview.

"They need to come up with decent e-mail," Sarner said.

Spam is unsolicited mass e-mail typically pitching sex-related products, prescription drugs and money-making offers. Sent indiscriminately to individuals, newsgroups or mail lists, spam can crash server computers and slow Internet traffic. It also can carry computer viruses such as Sobig, which sent almost 100 million junk e-mails in a week in August.

Getting permission to send offers won't be enough to avoid being blocked, Sarner said. Permission-based e-mail isn't considered spam, yet when marketers send impersonal newsletters or announcements that aren't geared toward the individual reader, recipients lose interest and block the messages or unsubscribe.

Instead of a newsletter sent three times in a week to announce that a mobile-phone company has the largest all-digital network, that business would be better off distributing location-specific messages to alert users about new cell-phone towers in their area or special offers for products in which a customer has shown interest, Sarner said.

A "well-crafted" e-mail can receive a 15 percent response rate, compared with less than 1 percent for banner ads that run on Internet Web sites, Gartner said.

Microsoft Corp, the world's biggest software maker, said last week that it will close free Internet chat rooms on its MSN Web sites to help stop spam and to block access to pedophiles.

MSN, with 350 million users each month, will stop chat services in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Latin America and Asia and will add pay services in the US, Canada and Japan Oct. 14.

AOL Time Warner Inc.'s America Online, the world's largest Internet service provider, estimates that the amount of spam it receives and blocks has doubled in the last couple of years, spokesman Nicholas Graham said. Aside from software and legal costs, the company has had to bring more servers on line. While it's never had a server break down on account of spam, on occasion the system has slowed down for a minute or two, he said.

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