E-Mail is the New Black for Affiliates

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In late 2003 it seemed a perfect storm had swelled against the use of e-mail in affiliate marketing. The CAN-SPAM Act of 2003, signed into law by President Bush on December 16, 2003, made legitimate e-mail affiliates wary of clicking the "send" button.

In addition to challenges like getting white listed by ISPs and beating Spam filters to reach their double opt-in subscribers, affiliates utilizing e-mail now had to lose sleep over whether they might run afoul of the FTC's ambiguous e-mail regulations.

At the same time, industry pundits lined up to anoint RSS the heir apparent to e-mail. RSS, an acronym for Really Simple Syndication, Rich Site Summary or RDF Site Summary, enables people to subscribe to receive communications to an "RSS feed reader". It sounded good on paper and pixels - subscribers get only what they want with RSS.

Could this be the end of e-mail as an affiliate marketing tool?

Rumors of E-mail's Demise

Message boards, periodicals and conference speakers were eulogizing e-mail, but they were premature. E-mail didn't die in affiliate marketing. It just spent a couple or three quarters in critical care.

While many people thought e-mail was on the ropes, the affiliates, merchants and networks were busy adapting and evolving.

Rather than fear CAN-SPAM and other issues that threatened e-mail marketing, forward thinking players embraced the new restrictions and worked out ways to leverage these standards.

"Subsequent to the passage of CAN-SPAM, and as we predicted, the response to our email campaigns has received a better return on investment for our Affiliates and Advertisers," commented Steven Richter, President and General Counsel of Media Breakaway, LLC.

"CAN-SPAM set a standard that allowed both e-mailers and IPS's to work together in improving the quality of the mailing being sent," continued Richter.

Technology Saves the Day

Just as CAN-SPAM was coming to be, there were lots of folks working on solutions to assist companies with compliance.

DirectTrack, part of the Direct Response Technologies, powers over 125 CPA Networks, where e-mail marketing by affiliates is a core piece of the business.

Jason Wolfe, Founder of Direct Response Technologies, recognized the need to take brisk action to safeguard his DirectTrack customers.

"Prior to CAN-SPAM Act, our technology was not enabled to assist merchants in protecting their brand in the DirectTrack powered networks. However, after CAN-SPAM was enacted, we launched a service in 2004 called DNEList (Do Not Email List)," stated Wolfe.

"This DNEList was integrated into DirectTrack and has been integral for merchants to enable them to comfortably use the affiliate channel and more specifically affiliate e-mail marketing. We have clients that have DNEList files that are over 60MB - that's huge. This is integral to their business," Wolfe further commented.

Another player in the CAN-SPAM compliance space is UnsubCentral. Their service enables companies to manage suppression lists across all commercial e-mail channels.

The UnsubCentral solution facilitates opt-out process management for third-party and joint e-mail campaigns, refer-a-friend programs and one-to-one e-mails sent from sales personnel. UnsubCentral also allows a company to synchronize suppression lists across e-mail delivery systems and service providers.

"Top affiliate marketers depend on UnsubCentral to provide the technology to automate all aspects of suppression list management, according to Joshua Baer, Founder of UnsubCentral and author of List-Unsubscribe.

"By automating the process with UnsubCentral, advertisers save money over doing it themselves and know that it works correctly. Our customers have the peace-of-mind of knowing that they are compliant with industry standards and their e-mail program is safe," continued Baer.

Turnabout is Fair Play

The chorus of thought shapers has pretty much gone dark with the "RSS is replacing e-mail" mantra. E-mail is back for affiliates. The once again mighty channel of e-mail marketing by affiliates is experiencing a Renaissance.

BlogAds.com conducted a reader survey in spring 2006 how often they read blogs via RSS. More than 70% of the 31,156 respondents reported that they never read blogs via RSS. A measly 4.35% always read blogs via RSS, based on the survey findings.

In an ironic twist, e-mail solution provider AWeber Communications launched a service in late 2005 called Feed Broadcaster. This tool enables the automatic creation of an e-mail newsletter from RSS content.

Subscribers opt-in to receive these newsletters just like any other e-mail communication and unbeknownst to them, they are receiving RSS feeds in their inbox.

Welcome home, e-mail.

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