Guest Post by JD Falk
There was certainly some surprise in the room when I pointed out (yep, it was me) that Laura has been around since before there were ESPs. Part of it, I’m sure, was because Laura’s not particularly ancient — and part was because it’s a shock to realize that people sent and received email and everything was just fine long before the segment of the industry that you work in had even been imagined.
Since this was at MAAWG, there were quite a few people in the room who were involved before there were ESPs (I asked for a show of hands) — and it was interesting to see how many of them work for ESPs now. Commenting on Laura’s article “A very young industry,” Kent McGovern mentioned three — including Anne Mitchell, who made up the word “deliverability” not long after stepping down as the head lawyer for the first shared blacklist of email-sending IP addresses.
Just think about that. She was the head lawyer for the MAPS RBL before there was such a thing as deliverability. (I worked with her there; so did Laura.)
There are a lot of us who’ve been around that long, and most don’t work in the deliverability/marketing side of the industry. Nearly all of us have become cynical over the years; some were cynical to begin with. A few, sadly, have burned out entirely from the frustration of having the same arguments, same discussions, over and over and over.
I think some of the recent refrain calling for ESPs to pressure each other into better practices comes in part from that same frustration. Yes, bad practices are bad, but we’re also tired with teaching the same thing to people with the same title, and feeling like the message never gets through. Part of what we’re saying is “It’s your industry, you’ve learned this stuff, now you teach ‘em.”
And when you do, it does work — far more often than when we say it, because you speak the same language. There’s now a generation (for lack of a better term) of ESP & deliverability staff who weren’t around before there were ESPs, maybe not even before CAN-SPAM, but have learned many of the same things and undergone similar transformation. Who’d have thought that Jaren Angerbauer — quite possibly the nicest guy in the industry — would ever start sighing at those young whippersnappers like a cynical old anti-spammer? And Jaren’s not only teaching deliverabilitators; he’s also teaching college students, ensuring that they’ll know far more when they enter the work force than you or he did.
We old-timers once struggled with the idea that we must reach out — even to people we disagree with — and teach what we knew, learning along the way to put it into terms that marketers understand. It’s so much simpler to add to a blacklist and throw away they key, declaring “not my problem anymore.” But we did start teaching, and look how far we’ve come; we’re still doing it, and look how much further there is to go.
Now it’s time for the next generation to do the same. Stop looking to us, or to the ISPs, to solve the problems of your industry for you; we’re busy dealing with spam, as we should’ve been doing all along. Your colleagues’ cluelessness is exactly as impermanent as your own was, and can be overcome in the same ways. Whether you have fifteen or ten or five or merely two years of experience, you’ve found your way to this blog and read down to this line, and attained some measure of wisdom, and you can ease the passage for others.
When someone at a marketing conference says something that you know isn’t true, that you know will result in poor deliverability and industry ire, call them on it. Engage them in a dialogue. Teach, explain, cajole, push — because with great wisdom comes great responsibility.
It’s your turn.
J.D. Falk is Director of Product Strategy for Receiver Products at Return Path, which is not an ESP.