Jupiter: E-Mail Filtering Costs to Rise

Aggressive policing of incoming e-mail by Internet service providers combined with higher commercial e-mail volume will add substantial costs to e-mail marketers for blocked messages in the coming years, according to a new study.

Jupiter Research predicts that the cost of “false positives” — legitimate commercial e-mail blocked as spam — will rise from $230 million in 2003 to $419 million in 2008.

The increase will come mostly from a higher volume of retention and sponsored e-mail. The false-positive rate will drop from 17 percent to 10 percent, Jupiter said.

The decline in percentage of e-mail blocked will result from new ISP efforts to shift from filtering to identity and authentication systems, such as those proposed by Yahoo and AOL in recent weeks, but marketers still will see a substantial number of their messages undelivered, the research said.

Blocked e-mail is the No. 1 concern for e-mail marketers, according to an earlier Jupiter survey. Jupiter noted that despite a rise in the volume of permission e-mail, consumers see only an increase in spam.

“Consumer trust has shifted from the marketers that they patronize to the ISPs,” Jupiter Research analyst David Daniels said. “Consumers are allowing ISPs to act as the arbiter of relevancy and inbox security.”

AOL recently put into effect an enhanced white list that allows e-mailers drawing few complaints to have their e-mails displayed with HTML graphics. AOL normally blocks HTML in e-mail from senders not in a user's address book to thwart spammers using Web beacons to verify e-mail addresses.

White lists, however, do not ensure delivery. E-mail marketers hope that identity systems will help draw a clearer line between legitimate marketers and spammers. AOL is testing the SPF (Sender Permitted From) protocol to fight forged e-mail addresses, while Yahoo has introduced its own method, called DomainKeys.

Such identity systems are seen as a crucial first step in developing reputation services for e-mailers that will further separate legitimate from illegitimate e-mailers.

The move to establish credentials received a further boost Monday. Brightmail, a leading spam-fighting company, released a reputation service that creates profiles of e-mail senders.

Daniels said reputation services could serve a similar function for e-mail as credit bureaus for banks, giving senders a risk score that networks can use to gauge whether to deliver their messages.

Jupiter predicts that ISPs eventually will introduce bonded-sender-type programs that add a financial cost to delivering bulk e-mail based on a sender's complaint levels. For commercial e-mailers, the cost is well worth it, the study concludes. “The largest e-mail marketers that often erroneously trip the ISP's spam alarms will be the first to pay additional fees to ensure e-mail delivery,” Jupiter said.

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