The Weekly HELO – February 14th

This week: content and discontent at AOL, in your inbox (dynamically), in the email marketing community (doubly), in low-income households, and in Tunisia. Also: practical advice to reduce spam.

Welcome to the third edition of Return Path’s new feature, The Weekly HELO! Each week, Melinda Plemel synopsizes some of the most interesting current happenings in email technology and messaging abuse.

Diversion by fotologic on Flickr


Big news for AOL: they are planning to acquire the Huffington Post for a cool $315 Million dollars (make sure to use your Dr. Evil voice when you say it). Yes, that’s nearly 1/3 of a billion dollars.

After the acquisition, Huffington Post co-founder Ariana Huffington will become the president and editor-in-chief of a newly formed group within AOL responsible for integrating content between the two companies in the news, technology, women and other sectors. She will also be heading AOL’s technology blogs TechCrunch and Engadget, as well as music and local media sites.

The Huffington Post started as a place to find news for fairly left-thinking individuals. Over the years the content has changed some to include more corporate news and the inclusion of individuals that might not share the same viewpoint, but at the core has maintained its mission to be an alternative source for news. They also added a lot of tabloid (some might say purient) content. It will be interesting to watch to see how much more it may change, and if blogs like TechCrunch and Engadget will see more of the political Ariana flare — or more of the half-dressed celebrity photo galleries.

Mr. Magill has two interesting articles this week

The biggest thing to hit the internet in 10 years for email marketers could be that “Yahoo and Hotmail–and to a lesser extent, Gmail–have quietly begun allowing senders to include dynamic content in their messages.” I can hear the stampede now, the rush to create dynamic content. It seems like a great idea for those marketers that have a highly engaged list, but will it help those marketers that don’t have an engaged list? I also wonder how this will affect content filtering? Will these ISPs see more marketers changing the content on the fly, to avoid it being identified as non-engaging and get bulked? Time will tell.

Mr. Magill also has a great rant about the definition of “double opt-in.” I have often seen confusion and varying definitions for double opt-in — in fact, I think I spoke to the same guy that Ken spoke to in the past, the conversation sounds the same. I would love to quote a few blurbs from this post, but this is a family show.

Digital Divide: Race or Income?

CNN reported on a study that Hispanics lag behind in internet usage. “In households with incomes under $30,000 a year, some 57% of Hispanics use the internet, the study says. That number jumps up to 79% for Hispanic households that make between $30,000 and $49,999. And more than 90% of Latinos in households with incomes of more than $50,000 are online, the study found.”

I’m actually surprised that internet usage is that high for households that make less than $30K a year. Since those households are focused on putting food on the table, and keeping the heat on, I would think the internet would be the last priority. It would be interesting to study what they use the internet for.

Official Phish

Last week I mentioned Egypt and China, two countries that tried or are trying to suppress the internet. Tunisia is another country that has tried to do the same thing in the past . It appears that the Tunisian Government is now “basically phishing their users with fake versions of login pages for Facebook, Gmail and Yahoo!. It only works for users that aren’t using the https:// AKA SSL version of the sites, but then again who knows how much coverage FireSheep got in the Tunisian media.”

Fighting spam and phishing is difficult enough, but when governments of countries are not only supporting spammers, but are actually themselves blatant cybercriminals feels extremely defeating. Hopefully as countries grow and evolve, any government that suppresses or participates in these acts will be not only called out by their people, but also by the world. Reports like this do keep me motivated that we are all doing the right thing.

You, Too, Can Prevent Spam

On that note, AllSpammedUp gives some good practical advice in Four Simple Anti-Spam Projects to make a Difference, including:

1. Implement CAPTCHA in Feedback Forms
2. Ditch client-based filtering for a centralized solution
3. Adopt an aggressive stance towards patching
4. Protect your email account from hacking

All great points (read the article for details), and should be fairly easy for any system admin to implement. As the world changes, we need to make sure we are always one step ahead.

Till next time….

Image by fotologic on Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

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