[linux-elitists] speaking of hunting/defeating spammers...

Ryan Waldron rew@erebor.com
Wed May 2 12:58:19 PDT 2001

On Wed, 2 May 2001, Karsten M. Self wrote:

> on Wed, May 02, 2001 at 03:56:37AM -0500, Ryan Waldron (rew@erebor.com) wrote:

> > But after talking with some direct-mail marketing types some years
> > ago, when they told me what the response rates were for spam,
> > especially (and this makes me sick) all HTML-ed-up email, it was
> > staggering.  Response rates an order of magnitude (sometimes, so they
> > said) higher than direct-postal-mail, and for a minute fraction of the
> > cost.
> You got anything to back this up?

I don't.  Like I said, I am repeating some information which came from
a professional direct-mail company who was (at the time) doing some
direct-email "promotions", and I was in a position to ask them, in a
non-threatening way (because I was curious) what sort of success they

> Direct-mail response rates typically run in the 1-3% range, IIRC.  I
> have a hard time believing that 10% of spam generates a meaningful
> response.

I agree, and I would guess that just like direct-mail, only the fairly
well-written (there are gradations of spam quality, like everything
else, I guess) or well-designed ones get a decent response.  But I
think that the response RATE doesn't really matter either, as long as
you're able to send out 1,000,000 or so of these for a fraction of
what it would cost to do a few thousand direct mails.  You don't have
to get a very high percentage response on a million email spam
messages to beat the standard 1-3% range on a few thousand direct mail

So as long as people are inclined to respond to this stuff positively,
the odds are heavily stacked (from a motivational/marketing
standpoint) in favor of the practice continuing.

Look, just in case anyone is wondering, I despise spam utterly.  I've
never done it, would never do it, refuse to do business with companies
that DO practice it, never think there's any justification for it, and
think that all spammers should be locked up and then fed nothing but
Spam(tm) and water until they die.

But we're talking about WHY they do it, and like so much else in the
world, it's a very simple equation of cost vs. reward.  The cost
remains almost vanishingly small compared to ANY other "direct"
marketing technique (phone, in-person, postal mail) that almost any
non-zero response typically makes it a profitable undertaking.  And if
one million didn't do it, send out two million next time.

If you don't have any scruples about it (whether due to ignorance or
to simple cosmic self-centeredness), then the risk/reward component is
all that matters.

C.f. Cantor and Siegel.  These clowns are STILL making money for their
aberrant and repulsive behavior, what, 10 years ago now?  People spam
because either they're (1) making money at it, or (2) think they
will.  I think there are a lot more in the latter category than in the
former, but there ARE people in the former.

Of course, the latter component is being well-supplied by the small
industry that has sprung up pushing spamming paraphernalia, and
judging from a non-scientific sampling of the type of spam that I get
regularly, selling spamming tools or databases is the second
most-common spam, right behind "Young Nubile Asian Transvestite Goat
Sex" or some such.

BTW, if I should shut up now because this is too off-topic for the
list, just somebody smack me, and I'll go back to lurking.

Ryan Waldron    |||   http://www.erebor.com    |||    rew@erebor.com

"The web goes ever, ever on, down from the site where it began..."

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