E-mail has become the dominant form of written communication for most Americans. Within direct and interactive marketing, it has become the “killer app.” Spam is the growing threat to business involved in e-mail and a giant pain to all consumers who are online.
Congressional committees are sharpening knives as they prepare to create legislation that would strangle the newest marketing medium. What should be done?
The U.S. Postal Service should step into the fray. Our USPS missed the boat on e-mail and the Internet more than a decade ago. Back then, a clearer vision would have given the USPS a revenue stream as well as protect consumers from spam.
This article will not, as I have previously written, speak to the issue of revenue per e-mail sent. The postal service has a more vital role: The controlling and issuing of permanent e-mail addresses to all U.S. households and family members.
Think about our telephone numbers. Based on where we live, we have a defined area code, a defined prefix and then four digits that are personal to the number itself. A number in Nassau County, NY, could be 516/433-1234. That number places it in Nassau County, Jericho/Syosset and then the personal numeric.
Whether the person possessing that number uses MCI, Sprint, AT&T or various other vendors, the number remains the same. It is transparent to the user or receiver as to which service is being employed.
Let the postal service do the same for e-mail and the Internet in general. Here’s how this could work:
John Doe lives at 201 Broad Stream Road, Sarasota, FL 34236-5604. The new standard e-mail for Mr. Doe would be [email protected] Of course, I am sure that the postal service could devise a more creative standard than I have in this example. The ZIP+4 could be used. My point is that e-mail can be standardized by the USPS.
This has clear benefits to everyone, except the spammers, pornographers and fraudulent groups that prey through e-mail:
o Each individual in a family could register with the USPS for their own address. At the Doe household, Mary, John Jr. and Peter all can have their own e-mail addresses. Plus, for an “upcharge,” they can have a family Web site: www.201bsr-fl236.usa, to which each member could add a personal page.
o Each household or e-mail address could simply block non-USPS URLs from their e-mail bin. By simply using the filter on their e-mail program, offshore spam would be eliminated.
o It would allow the USPS Inspection Service and other federal agencies to pursue domestic e-mail abusers.
o It would let households and individuals change service providers yet keep their e-mail addresses.
o Marketers could target geographically and use all the methodology of traditional direct marketing. This in itself would make e-mails more relevant to the recipient and response margins and ROI more profitable.
o Remove requests would be honored through traditional suppression methods.
o Change of address and new e-mail addresses would be combined to allow for greater efficiencies to all concerned.
Businesses would have a choice, either the above standard e-mail or one that maintained their individual corporate URL.
For all government business, consumers and business alike would be required to use the standard postal e-mail address. Therefore, IRS communications and filings as well as banking and secure transactions with SEC institutions would be through the system.
Who would lose? Excluding the bad guys, the ISPs such as AOL, Earthlink and others stand to lose their branding via the URL of the e-mail address. This is a small price to end the blight of spam and add the benefits to consumers and marketers alike.
Furthermore, it lets the USPS become a source of renewed energy and services that will come from an agency that has been around since the beginning of the republic.
Globalization of legitimate e-mails from other countries can be combined into this program, once again through the postal service. Discussions of this type of scenario are taking place. Lobbyists for different interests are not in favor of this program.
As DMers, we should think about this or other consumer-oriented e-mail programs that will let the medium survive.