Three Concerns about E-Newsletters

OK, I just posted five reasons you SHOULD have an e-newsletter, now let’s look at three things you need to take into account as you start writing your e-newsletters:

  1. Junk Email filters. There is a lot of email out there. And a lot of that email is automatically generated junk that you don’t want to read. The unfortunate point is that a good email newsletter site like or Constant is also an automatically generated email that can caught in a filter. We use Aweber and we get a spam assassin score BEFORE we send so we know how likely it is to get filtered out.
  2. Information Overload. How many emails do YOU get every day? I get over a hundred, not including the junk that gets filtered out. Even then I’ve got an overload of information and should probably unsubscribe from half a dozen newsletters. But they’re really good when I take the time to read them. So remember that your reader is likely overloaded and that leads to the next concern:
  3. Competition for Attention. Like I said, I get over 100 emails a day. So your e-newsletter is competing for my attention with every other item in my inbox. And of course I’m likely distracted by who’s IM’ing me or what the latest tweet from Twitter is as well. One key issue to deal with here is to make sure your subject line leaps off the screen in a way the engages the reader from the start.

These concerns aren’t insurmountable but you should be aware of them so that you can prepare to make your newsletter stand head and shoulders above the rest.икони


Outlook Follow Up

A couple of months ago I wrote about the overwhelming feeling I had every day when my inbox was over-stuffed. I was pushing 2000 messages just in my inbox – and I was doing a lot of filing of messages then. Well I am happy to report that I have stuck with the program. Back then I whittled my inbox down to 6 messages.

Right now my inbox is bloated up to 38 messages. 15 of those will be removed as soon as I take care of the small tasks associated with them. Now don’t get me wrong. Other than spam, I don’t throw anything away. I’ve got emails dating back to 1999. But instead of letting them fill up my inbox, I regularly file the messages away to where they belong.

Even if there is a “to do” associated with an email, I can flag it or categorize it and then file it. With Outlook 2007’s powerful search tools, the flag or category let’s me know I need to follow up with it. And it feels so good to turn off a due flag on an email and watch the “For Follow Up” search category go down by one.

So if you are sinking in your inbox, set aside the time to clean it out. Once its clean, be ruthless. Make sure you come back to it each day or each week and whittle it down. Do I need this email? Does this email represent a to-do for me? Where can I file this email? Does it belong to a specific category? All of these questions can help you figure out where to put the email.

One final confession: I have learned to delete messages as well.  Yes, I had to face it – some emails, like a single word “yes” in reply to a question I asked, might not be worth keeping.ikoni


An Email Address By Any Other Letter

Shakespeare may have said that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but who would have imagined that email address starting with any other letter would get less spam?

Say what? A researcher in England discovered that, for real email addresses, those beginning with less common letters receive less spam. So that means that if your name is Mike Xanowitz, you might want to have your email address as instead of M’s, you see, get more spam than X’s.

This is just one study but the results feel right to me. Think about it another way. sounds pretty general, even if isn’t so well known. on the otherhand is pretty specific. So if I were trying to send unsolicited commercial messages (otherwise known as spam) to this domain, I might get lucky and guess that mike@ is a valid email address. But unless I know Mike personally and know how to spell his last name, I’m unlikely to simply guess at xanowitz@ and be right.

Does it mean anything to you? Perhaps not if you already have an established email. If however you’re in the process of creating a new email address, consider a lesser used first letter such as x, y or z for your email address.


Managing your Information

I seem to remember a song with the lyrics “take time to make time”. I invite you to take a little time now to create extra time for yourself. I wrote previously about how SPAM is taking over our inboxes. There are a few concrete steps you can follow to take back your inbox and manage your information flow.

The easiest is configuring your mail server to tag incoming mail that it suspects is spam with an addition to the header. For example, my mail server uses spam assassin and I have configured it to add “SPAM?” to every header that it suspects might be spam. Then I configured my email client (I use Outlook 2003) to move every message with SPAM? in the header to the Junk Email folder. Now instead of having to wade through the junk in my inbox, I can quickly peruse the Junk Email folder to make sure that there’s nothing valid there and then flush them all away.

But there’s more you can do besides just managing junk. You can also set up rules and filters to copy and move messages around. For example, for most of my subscriptions, I have rules that move the incoming message into a specified subfolder instead of living in my inbox. For example, I belong to several Microsoft newsletters. When one of these newsletters arrives, Outlook looks at it and says “Oh, this is from Microsoft” and moves it my Microsoft folder. Then when I am ready to focus my attention on Microsoft newsletters, I can go and look in that folder.

You can set up rules or filters in any email client worth it’s weight. I’ve got about 20 different rules set up so that I can focus my attention on the unfiltered messages in my inbox when that’s the task I’m focusing on and then focus on the filtered messages when that’s what I’m focusing on.


Unwanted Email

According to Postini (, the amount of spam we get in our inboxes is continuing to rise and is in fact rising dramatically. The question I often get is “Why”? Why would anyone want to do this and who, if anyone benefits?

The question has several answers. One is the “Technology anarchists” who delight in causing mayhem on the Internet. For the sheer pleasure of it, they go out and create viruses and spam to fill up the internet pipelines. I know that I have spent more time than I care to think of simply eliminating junk from my inbox.

Then there are the spammers that actually make money. Even if they only get a .001 response rate from their spam, if they send out 10,000,000 messages, they can make a lot of money. And they obviously don’t care who they inconvenience in the process.

Next there’s folks like you and me. If we don’t have our computers and networks sufficiently protected, the bad guys will use our systems for their launching grounds. They hack into our computers and use their network of 100’s or 1000’s of compromised computers to launch new spam and virus attacks.

There may not be a lot we can do about the first two answers but we can do an awful lot about the third one. First, you need to have a functioning firewall in place that blocks unwanted incoming traffic and monitors outgoing traffic (to alert you if there is unusual outgoing traffic). Next you need to make sure you keep your computer up-to-date with security updates. That used to just mean from Microsoft but now you need to check just about every program you have including Adobe Acrobat Reader and Java to make sure that they are all securely up-to-date.

Then we need to make sure that our computers and network devices have valid, up-to-date antivirus software on them. I am amazed at the number of small businesses that we work with that just don’t “get” the importance of protecting their data, their employees, and their customers by keeping antivirus software up to date.

And in 2007 an anti-spyware package is also essential. Many manufacturer’s now bundle anti-spyware with their anti-virus products but whether they’re bundled or not, you need this protection. Microsoft has a free anti-spyware program that you can download from their web site. It is called Defender.

Finally, we can all exercise a little caution when our surfing. If a web site is trying to download and install a program onto your computer, make sure you understand what it is and what you’re getting yourself into. Many sites have “handy” toolbars that you can use. Many of these are valid like the major search engine toolbars that actually improve your surfing experience. But others are designed to track what pages you visit and then “serve” you ads based on what sites you visit. Also take time to read the license agreement. Often buried deep is the key information saying that by downloading said program, you also agree to download and install another program that will, in effect spy on you.


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