The Best of 2004

Looking back at 2004’s top news stories in direct and interactive marketing, we didn’t have any big, big headlines like last year’s creation of the national no-call registry, but we did get an answer from the Supreme Court that put the issue to rest. We also saw several arrests with the CAN-SPAM Act, and the list industry received a warning from the Federal Trade Commission that it’s watching. Outsourcing was thrust into the spotlight because of comments made during the presidential election.

The Spiegel Group gave its namesake catalog a makeover early in the year, but then sold it and the Newport News division in a fire sale to a group that included several former executives. Martha Stewart was convicted on charges related to insider trading, and her namesake catalog bit the dust. Nike, eBay and Gorton’s fish all tested their first catalogs. The Direct Marketing Association accepted a $200,000 “refund” to bring its fall show back to Central Florida in three years despite overwhelming opposition from attendees and exhibitors. A few weeks later, the DMA did an extraordinary thing by naming Ben Franklin to its Hall of Fame. I can’t wait to see whether Johann Gutenberg is on next year’s inductee list.

Let’s count down the top three stories of 2004:

3. A new leader at the DMA. John Greco took over as president/CEO in August and went on a listening tour to see what members had to say about the organization and the industry as a whole. He must have heard an earful because he already has shuffled senior management at the DMA and got rid of three top executives, nixed a few conferences and told the industry it needs an image makeover. And all that’s been done before the DMA announces its new strategic plan next month.

2. The year for postal reform. Almost. Congress got the closest it has in decades to modernizing the U.S. Postal Service, but election-year politics and some high-placed opposition derailed it. On the surface, the USPS looks like it’s in great shape: It made $3.1 billion this year, it reduced its debt to $1.8 billion and its work force is at its smallest level since 1984. But fasten your seatbelts – a double-digit rate case is coming in the spring.

1. When Google speaks … Where to begin? A multibillion-dollar IPO, Gmail, desktop search, local search, trademark infringement rulings, book indexing and library searches. Yes, Google stole Microsoft’s thunder week after week and is revolutionizing how we use our computers and the Internet while creating a new frontier for marketers.

Our best wishes to you for the new year.

Tad Clarke is editor in chief of DM News. His editorial appears Mondays on and in our free e-mail newsletter DM News daily. You can subscribe to our e-mail newsletters by visiting //

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