Polly wants a cracker!

Parrots repeat things over and over again, and so do deliverability consultants. They repeat themselves in the hope that someone will listen. Parrots want crackers, but consultants want people to hear what they’re saying. Laura Atkins’ post from yesterday is very relevant. Folks, listen to her. She knows what she’s talking about. Al Iverson, too. There are many good articles being published these days that address this problem:

The days of “what do I tell the ISP?” are long gone. The ISPs care about what bulk mailers do, not what they say. Reputation systems are a different paradigm from the old days of whitelisting and blocking.

It used to be that you could call up someone at an ISP, and if you were either honest enough or clever enough, it was possible to convince them to whitelist your IP, and then the IP in question had a free ride until someone noticed a Bad Thing and revoked the whitelisting. Hard blocking was done mostly by hand, which meant there was (relatively) not that much of it going on. A mailer had to do something pretty awful to catch the attention of a person and get blocked. The bad guys, predictably, ruined it; staying under the radar let mailers get away with very poor practices, and a great many of them did just that. The paradigm stopped working. The ISPs had to come up with a better way before their networks died and all their customers went elsewhere.

Reputation was born.

The wonderful thing about reputation systems from an ISP point of view is that once they are functional and right, they catch an awful lot more bad mail than mere people could. They’re catching goodly portions of the enormous quantities of marginal mail that no-one really seems to want: pummeling the ISPs and their subscriber bases with huge quantities of “blah” mail won’t work any more – they don’t want to transport billions of emails that their members don’t care about: it’s expensive, both in overhead costs and in losing members to fatigue.

And here’s where I’m repeating myself: reputation systems don’t care about business models, protestations of opt-in, legitimacy, or urgency. They care about the response generated by a given stream of bulk mail. Whitelisting no longer provides bullet-proof protection from blocks; whitelisting is mostly dynamic and dependent on reputation. Spam-foldering is also now largely driven by reputation. It’s a much more fluid environment, wherein how mail is treated can change by the moment, and in which is it much, much easier to drive reputation down than it is to bring it back up.

Don’t worry about what to tell the ISPs. If your mail isn’t being treated the way you want it to be, look at the mail! Figure out what is causing the issue, and fix it. If you can’t figure it out, hire someone that can; there are ESPs and consultants who do it for a living and are very good at it.

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