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The Math

The Math

Without bulk mail there just can't be a junk E-mail problem of the sort we have today.

Today a small number of abusers are doing mailings with tens of thousands to millions of recipients. So we all get many unwanted mailings in our boxes each day, polluting them and making them unusable.

If we take away the ability to do a mass-mailing, and require that any unsolicited sales letters be personally written for the recipient, we put a cost on Spam that isn't there today. That cost puts an inherent limit on the problem, which today exists because bulk E-mail is cheap.

The truth is, E-mail marketing just isn't very effective. Most people just discard it immediately. Some even filter it out in advance. Only because one can send a million for $100 does it become worth anybody's while to do it. You only need a few sales to make back the $100.

Imagine though if there becomes a cost on such mails, even a just penny.

Now a million messages cost $10,000, and you need to sell a lot of product to make it worth doing.

In reality, personally written messages cost much more than a penny, even if written in an electronic sweatshop. (As an aside, this is still a mass mailing by my definition, since it was ordered as a mass mailing and there is a target list.) Good personally written messages cost dollars per message according to most business accountants.

In paper junk mail, a response rate of 2% is needed to make a mailing worthwhile, with a typical cost of 50 cents to $1 per bulk mail piece. On the telephone, the ability to have a live sales conversation makes the method productive enough to afford the cost of paying the telesales people.

But with E-mail marketing's response rates in the .01% rate, even a cost of a penny kills the medium as a marketing tool.

Even if it didn't kill it, imagine for a moment that one person in a thousand spent most of their day typing up and mailing unsolicited, non-bulk ads to people. Assume they could do 100 per day, and that's pretty hard when you're not doing form letters (which are of course for volume mail) or otherwise sending essentially the same message each time.

Even at that rate, the average person would see only one unwanted message every 10 days. A minor annoyance, perhaps, but hardly a world-shaking problem.

And 1 in 1000 are not going to do this sort of thing. The truth is that the word has gotten out that people hate being annoyed by sales pitches in their mailboxes. Even without rules or laws, respectable companies and people are not engaging in junk E-mail.

The math is clear. Without the ability to do volume mailing, there simply isn't going to be a junk E-mail problem unless things change in a major way.

If you accept this, the only reason to consider limits on anything but volume E-mail is if you decide that it's not possible to enforce rules against volume E-mail. This turns to not be true.