Why Email Stamps Are a Bad Idea
(also posted on the Return Path blog)
Rich Gingras, CEO of Goodmail is an incredibly smart and stand-up professional. I’ve always liked him personally and had a tremendous amount of respect for him. However, the introduction of the email stamp model by Goodmail is a radical departure from the current email ecosystem, and while I’m all for change and believe the spam problem is still real, I don’t think stamps are the answer. Rich has laid out some of his arguments here in the DMNews blog, so I’ll respond to those arguments as well as add some others in this posting. I will also comment on the DMNews blog site itself, but this posting will be more comprehensive and will include everything that’s in the other posting.
It seems that Goodmail’s main argument in favor of stamps is that whitelists don’t work. While he clearly does understand ISPs (he used to work at one), he doesn’t seem to understand the world of publishers and marketers. His solution is fundamentally hostile to the way they do business. I’m happy to have a constructive debate with him about the relative merits of different approaches to solving the false positive problem for mailers and then let the market be the ultimate judge, as it should be.
First, whitelists are in fact working. I know — Return Path runs one called Bonded Sender. We have documented several places that Bonded Senders have a 21% lift on their inbox delivery rates over non-Bonded Senders. It’s hard to see how that translates into "bad for senders" as Rich asserts. When the average inbox deliverability rate is in the 70s, and a whitelist — or, by the way, organic improvements to reputation — can move the needle up to the 90s, isn’t that good?
Second, why, as Goodmail asserts, should marketers pay ISPs for spam-fighting costs? Consumers pay for the email boxes with dollars (at AOL) or with ads (at Google/Yahoo/Hotmail). Good marketers have permission to mail their customers. Why should they have to pay the freight to keep the bad guys away? And for that matter, why is the cost "necessary?" What about those who can’t afford it? We’ve always allowed non-profits and educational institutions to use Bonded Sender at no cost. But beyond that, one thing that’s really problematic for mailers about the Goodmail stamp model is that different for-profit mailers have radically different costs and values per email they send.
For example, maybe a retailer generates an average of $0.10 per email based on sales and proit. So the economics of a $0.003 Goodmail stamp would work. However, they’re only paying $0.001 to deliver that email, and now Goodmail is asserting that they "only" need to pay $0.003 for the stamp. But what about publishers who only generate a token amount per individual email to someone who receives a daily newsletter based on serving a single ad banner? What’s their value per email? Probably closer to $0.005 at most. Stamps sound like they’re going to cost $0.003. It’s hard to see how that model will work for content delivery — and content delivery is one of the best and highest uses of permission-based email.