AOL-Goodmail Deal Called Money Grab

Feb 06, 2006 11:16 PM  By

AOL’s announcement that it would begin implementing Goodmail’s CertifiedEmail program is being denounced by at least one top industry executive as a cynical attempt to get more money out of nonspamming marketers.

Currently AOL blocks graphics and links on most bulk e-mail unless the sender is on AOL’s whitelist. Beginning this week, however, AOL said it would allow senders who have gone through an accreditation process with Goodmail to display images and hyperlinks by default for a fraction of a cent per message. AOL said it will also add a “trust” symbol that will appear in the display window so that recipients know the message has been verified as from a sender with a good reputation.

According to Matt Blumberg, chief executive of deliverability consultancy Return Path, the move will do nothing to help fight spam while essentially adding a delivery tax to e-mail sent by companies that already implement industry best practices.

“It does seem like a cynical attempt to get money out of reputable companies that have worked hard to earn the permission of their consumers to send them mail,” Blumberg says. “Now they’re being told, ‘If you don’t pay, that mail might or might not get there; it might or might not work when it does and it’s not going to have a little mark next to it that says it’s AOL certified.’”

“Our focus and goal here is to provide a safer and more secure environment for our consumers and restore some trust in the e-mail box,” Charles Stiles, AOL’s postmaster, was quoted as saying in a report announcing the news. But spammers won’t pay for the service, Blumberg says. As a result, AOL will be charging marketers who aren’t the problem.

Blumberg adds that reputable marketers already pay a fraction of a cent per e-mail to have their messages delivered, so AOL’s move will drastically raise delivery costs to AOL addresses.

AOL and Goodmail weren’t immediately reachable for comment.