Make money off e-mail before hitting send

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Jordan Cohen, VP, business development, Pontiflex
Jordan Cohen, VP, business development, Pontiflex

A few months ago, the Federal Trade Commission approved a new rule provision under the CAN-SPAM Act that clarified opt-out and other legal responsibilities for “multiple sender” e-mail messages — those messages that contain advertisements from numerous parties.

Before the ruling, many senders were unclear about what was required in such situations. A strict reading of the law would have it that each entity whose products and services were advertised in an e-mail should pool and process their opt-out files before deployment of every campaign and that each message should contain an unsubscribe link for each and every marketer.

In a nutshell, the FTC's new ruling says that it is acceptable for a single marketer to assume full CAN-SPAM responsibility for a message, without the need for an onerous, pre-deployment, multiple-marketer scrub, and a confusing multiple opt-out link process for consumers. As long as one of the marketers assuming compliance responsibility is one of the advertisers in the message, is identified as the sender in the “from” line, and includes a way to opt out from its own list, it is OK for that marketer to be the sole entity responsible for compliance.

The clarification should come as a sigh of relief for the many firms who previously went through the difficult multiple opt-out processes or avoided including third-party ads in their messages altogether. Now, the door has been opened for senders of all sizes to start monetizing their lists to the fullest.

Publishers and editorially focused senders aren't the only organizations that can benefit from selling ad space in their e-mail newsletters. Retailers can include offers for complementary third-party products. For example, credit card companies can help sell rental cars, hotels and high-speed broadband connections; or automakers can pitch lifestyle magazines. The possibilities are really endless.

But hold no illusions — nothing in the e-mail space comes easy, and there remains significant challenges to maximizing the monetization of e-mail programs. The debate about metrics transparency that has consumed the online advertising world lately is no less relevant to the e-mail space. In an era where advertisers demand total accountability, how could they possibly invest heavily into a channel, such as e-mail, when there's no guarantee their ads are going to be rendered and viewed? The list they're buying may be blocked or placed as spam into junk folders. However, hope remains in the form of services that can help e-mail get delivered.

Jordan Cohen is senior director of industry relations at Goodmail Systems.

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