Opt-in E-Mail Universe Shrinking Fast

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NEW YORK - The universe of opt-in e-mail addresses is shrinking fast, in spite of the growing number of new e-mail and Internet users going online every day, according to Stevan Roberts, president of Edith Roman Associates Inc., Pearl River, NY, a traditional direct mail list company that also manages e-mail lists.


"If the direct mail marketing industry had begun with the same regulations guarding it, [as the Internet] I doubt we'd all be sitting here today," he told attendees at a Direct Marketing Club of New York luncheon here earlier this month.


"We are facing a very, very big challenge here. Only a small percentage of the potential e-mail universe is permission-based, about 15 percent overall, or 15 million people. And as more and more people are opting out, extra pressure is being put on those who opted in, to the point that they will eventually opt out too. It's a snowballing effect."


Roberts predicted the growth of new Internet users would keep the industry alive for about three more years and called the advent of e-mail newsletters "a saving grace" because their level of acceptance is higher than other e-mail marketing.


One thing that would propel growth , however, is the adoption of direct e-mail marketing among the business-to-business community.


"This is something we will undoubtedly begin to see more and more of [because] all the things you learned in direct marketing work on the Internet too."


Another reason for the decline in size of e-mail universes are e-mail users' fear of computer viruses.


"We saw a significant decline in click-throughs during the Melissa virus," noted Eric Zilling, vice president of ALC Interactive, the online arm of list firm American List Counsel, Princeton, NJ.


Also, the word once most popular in the direct mail marketing world - free - is now the one word most commonly filtered by spam software.

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