Goodmail good for SMBs?

Wednesday, February 8, 2006
Posted by Brawlin Melgar
Questions Re: Goodmail

THE BIG NEWS THIS WEEK was the announcement by Goodmail that it had struck a deal with AOL and Yahoo! to begin charging and collecting "postage" for guaranteed delivery to the inbox. The announcement precipitated a lot of agita among technology companies that compete with Goodmail, and raised more questions than it answered. Without getting into whether this is a good thing or a bad thing, here are some of the more intriguing questions it raises.

Question 1:  How long before someone files a lawsuit? I'm no antitrust lawyer or any kind of lawyer at all, but as far as I can see, the U.S. Government is the only outfit that has a monopoly on the delivery of mail. I'll be curious to see if antitrust legislation kicks in to stop the monopoly that Goodmail seems to be setting up for itself. And speaking of that :

Question 2: If other people get into the act, does this mean I'm going to have to pay multiple "post offices" to deliver my mail: one for AOL and Yahoo, another for Hotmail, another for Earthlink? If someone is going to get into the game, shouldn't a body like ICANN be put in charge of it? Will this generate a "GoDaddy" for e-mail delivery--and will that company have a buxom girl in the SuperBowl ads?

Question 3: We know what the e-mail service providers think; how do the advertisers feel? I remember talking to a direct marketer a year ago who begged for such a system to be put in place, stating that they would gladly pay someone if it would guarantee delivery of their e-mails to the inbox. I published that statement and immediately got feedback from another direct marketer asking me if I was crazy, and stating that such a system would destroy their business. I would love to hear how some of the brands themselves feel about this issue now.

Question 4: Will this action prompt users to drop AOL and Yahoo as ISPs like a hot potato? There is the possibility of a user backlash when people realize that their subscription of their favorite e-mail newsletter is being caught at the gate. Will other ISPs declare a "Big Brother Free Zone" in order to attract dissatisfied customers?

Question 5: Will brands be finally coaxed into cleaning up and segmenting their lists in order to clear out the (now) costly rubbish in an effort to make each e-mail count? I think there might be a real boon for companies specializing in list merge and purge, now that nonresponsive e-mails can cost real money. I would also guess that agencies that specialize in helping their clients segment their list to help increase response and open rates will have a field day.

Question 6: Will brands need to weigh the costs of white listing vs. delivery?  Right now, there is a good business to be made helping people get white listed on various ISPs, as well as consulting with them on best practices to avoid the spam filters. How do these costs stack up against the costs of just paying the postage? And what will guaranteed delivery do to open rates and conversion numbers?

 As I said, more questions than answers. It will be interesting to see who throws down the first gauntlet. Because someone, somewhere is pulling off the kid gloves as we