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Business Observer Friday, Sep. 26, 2003 19 years ago

Tech Talk: Good Spam

Does spam deserve its awful reputation? It saves trees and gives the small business ownereasier access to consumers.

Tech Talk: Good Spam

Does spam deserve its awful reputation? It saves trees and gives the small business owner

easier access to consumers.

Simply defined, spam is unsolicited e-mail on the Internet. Depending on your use of the Internet, the average person probably receives 20 or more unsolicited e-mails a day - some legitimate, some vulgar and some plain weird.

There are literally hundreds of groups fighting spam, claiming it is a violation of their privacy, and they are even going so far as to sue companies that promote the use of spam in marketing.

I don't want to get into a political, philosophical or technical discussion about freedom of speech, right to privacy or even the misuse of bandwidth. What I do want to talk about is why I believe spam does more good than harm in today's economy.

At the core, spam is not unlike unwanted junk mail, or the telemarketer calling you during dinner. I would argue that spam is less evasive and more efficient than any other form of mass marketing, and as technology improves will offer much more value to the end consumer. Spam is easier to remove, we are not killing trees and I am not forced to get up from the dinner table. Do we complain that commercials or junk mail are an intrusion of our privacy? Can we unsubscribe from junk mail? No. At least with spam you have choices.

For the sake of simplicity, I condensed my pro-spam argument into three points.

First, what's the big deal? So you get a few unwanted e-mails each morning. Worst case, you click the "unsubscribe" and delete the message. Sure its annoying, but its capitalism at its best. There are thousands of small businesses that can't afford full-page ads in Vogue or spots on prime time television, but are able to market their products through the Internet efficiently and on tight budgets. Support the small business, support spam.

The second point: "It will get better with time." One of the big challenges with spam is directing the right content to the right people. If you are a baseball fan, you may not mind spam from a sports site pitching its products. As technology improves and as companies become more responsible in how they use spam, the content will begin to know your likes and dislikes, age and gender, and the value will increase.

The third and final point: "It's a lot better then popup ads." Am I right? I can't stand popup ads. If we weren't complaining so much about spam, they never would have come up with popups. Let's accept spam as a valid form of Internet marketing, so these eggheads don't continue to come up with other ways to push their products.

There are millions of ways for big corporations to market their products to consumers, from TV, radio, cabs, blimps, magazines and movies. Give the small guy something. Let's at least give him spam.

Rich Swier is co-founder and managing partner of Sarasota-based Startup Florida. He can be reached at [email protected].

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