*E-Mail Firms Consider Forming Standards Group

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A group of some of the marketing industry's most influential e-mail players last week met by telephone and in person at the New York headquarters of NetCreations to discuss the formation of a self-regulating body that would establish best practices for e-mail marketing.

More than 40 people representing e-mail list owners, marketers, ISPs, advertising networks and other firms gathered to follow up on an initial meeting in July. At the earlier meeting, a smaller group, which is being referred to as the E-Mail Standards Working Group, established common goals that a potential larger coalition could work toward.

Officials from marketers such as NetCreations, Yesmail.com, 24/7 Media and DoubleClick participated in the meeting, as did representatives from the industry's privacy contingent, including Mail Abuse Prevention System, Junkbusters and anti-spam advocate Rodney Joffe. Also participating was Internet pollster Harris Interactive, which is suing MAPS in U.S. District Court in New York state.

The participants are divided into a handful of smaller coalitions, each of which is trying to establish voluntary regulations for the e-mail marketing industry. One of the other leading groups is the Responsible Electronic Communications Alliance. The groups are acting aggressively to police themselves in hopes of demonstrating that government intervention -- something almost all are against -- is unnecessary.

At the July meeting of the E-Mail Standards Working Group, the participants attempted to develop a consensus for voluntary best practices in existing e-mail databases and prospecting files.

Last week's larger gathering included some follow-up in that regard. The participants spoke briefly about the establishment of special councils that concentrate on different components of the e-mail industry, including customer retention, customer acquisition, government affairs and overall best practices.

However, the bulk of the meeting focused not on specific e-mail protocol, but on weighing the reasons why or why not the separate groups should join forces under an umbrella organization. Those in favor of unifying said a self-regulating body would be more effective if it encompassed all of the industry's players, rather than one or two segments.

The groups now have to go back to their full memberships and gauge their levels of interest in forming a coalition.

The next meeting has been scheduled for Sept. 11 at the NetCreations offices in New York City.

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