J–k M–l

Several times a day, I search a handful of news sites to make sure DM News hasn’t missed any big news in the direct marketing world. The search has grown larger – and easier – in recent years thanks to the proliferation of online news sources. One thing I noticed recently is that fewer stories use the term “junk mail,” especially if I don’t count the spam-related ones.

There’s no scientific evidence yet whether this is because newspapers are taking a break from the term or because the Mail and Jobs Coalition’s campaign to eradicate it is working. The coalition sent its latest letter to the New York Daily News this month because of the News’ headline: “Junk your junk mail.” “The term ‘junk mail’ and all that it represents is as outdated as ‘fish wrapping,’ ” wrote executive director Peter G. Miller. “Why not recognize that both newspapers and the mailstream each represent an important advertising channel and that there’s plenty of room for both.”

In my “junk mail” searching the other day, I also ran across an opinion piece by Jack E. Dunning at RockyMountainNews.com. A former “list peddler” for 35 years, Dunning now opposes the business of renting names unless the consumer gets a cut. Using Denver as an example, he said its metropolitan area has 1.2 million people who shop by “junk mail” (there’s that term again) and spend $9.4 billion on products and services yearly, “creating sales of your names of around $31.9 million.”

The problem with this logic is that Dunning wants to give consumers half of that amount, ignoring that they’ve already benefited in the sharing of this information: by having lower prices. As my former colleague Ken Magill wrote in 2001: “… there should be a privacy price and a non-privacy price for every product and service that relies on the trade of so-called personally identifiable information. … Want privacy? Fine. Pay for it.”

In any case, it’s time for my shameless plug of the week. In doing research for our special 25th anniversary supplement (look for it in the Oct. 4 issue!), I ran across a time when DM News considered the term “junk mail” so offensive that it wrote an entire story and substituted hyphens for the “u,” “n,” “a” and “i.” From our Jan. 1, 1987, issue, the headline read: “People Magazine Draws Industry Fire for Its Holiday Attack on J–k M–l.” Well, I guess that’s one way to solve the junk mail problem. Now, if you will excuse me, that supplement isn’t going to finish itself.

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