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Janet Roberts

Working with ChoiceMail
By Janet Roberts

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When is it worth your while to jump through an extra hoop to get your ezine past a spam filter?

ChoiceMail, a spam filter by DigiPortal Software, requires senders to verify themselves before allowing questionable messages to go through.

For publishers, this adds another step to the confirmation or delivery process, which can also mean one more chance to lose a subscriber.

You have to fill out a form at a Web site in which you state your name and business. If your recipient approves, your message goes through. If you don't do it, or if the recipient rejects your explanation, ChoiceMail discards your message.

  • How should you reply, if at all? Ask yourself:

  • How much time do I spend now on subscriber management?

  • How many messages like this do I get now?

Is this subscriber worth the time I will spend filling in the blank and waiting for approval?

If you're building a list, you should go for it, as annoying as it might be, because you could end up with a solid-gold, active reader. (You're gambling, though, because the user could reject you anyway, and you'll have to delete that address.)

The cost could outweigh the benefit, though, if your readership is in the upper five or six figures and you're already up to your ears with management issues.

The Message

This is the message ChoiceMail sends to people who are in the gray area between the recipient's whitelist of approved senders, whose messages shoot right through, and the blacklist of rejects, who get deleted automatically:

"You recently sent a message to me at the email address . To help cope with the ever increasing volume of junk e-mail, I am using ChoiceMail, a permission-based e-mail filtering tool. Your original e-mail is being held by ChoiceMail until you complete the following simple one-time process.

"Please click on the link
"When your browser opens, fill in your name and a short reason for wanting to send email to me. If your reason is acceptable, your first email and all subsequent e-mails from you will be delivered to me normally. "There is no need to send your original mail again.

"Please visit DigiPortal Software's web site at to find out how ChoiceMail can help prevent your in-box overflowing with junk e-mail!

"Please note that if you don't register within 4 day(s), all the messages you sent will be automatically deleted."

Ezine-Tips reader Stacy Strunk, who publishes a newsletter for the Filter Forum, received this message from a subscriber and passed it on to us, with a comment:

"As for me, I decided it wasn't worth my time to go through the annoying process and unsubscribed the user. (That's probably what he would have wanted anyway.) I imagine spammers wouldn't have even done that much, they would have ignored the message altogether and let it sit in the queue."

The Web Form

When you click on the link -- which will require several cut-and-pastes because it's so long; Stacy's example had 181 characters -- you'll get a screen with this information:

"The recipient, , is using ChoiceMail, a permission-based email system, to block unsolicited email. ChoiceMail requires that you, , obtain permission in advance to allow your emails to be seen by the recipient. This process is intended to prevent disruptive junk mail from interrupting the recipient. The recipient requests that you fill in the form below. There is no need to resend your original email message.

"You will be notified automatically if the recipient decides to accept email from you. Please note however, that you might not be notified if your request is rejected.

Your email address:
Your name:
Reason to contact
"Please enter the code sequence displayed in the framed box above."

Should You Respond?

Although users have raved about ChoiceMail's effectiveness, it does pose a disadvantage for publishers. You are, in effect, having to secure permission twice in order to get your email delivered, whether it's to complete the subscription-request process or to deliver your ezine.

Walter Mossberg, who covers technology for the Wall Street Journal, had this caveat in an otherwise-positive review posted on DigiPortal's site:

"The program did initially block a few automated mailings I wanted, such as newsletters and purchase confirmations from online merchants. But I simply clicked on these inside ChoiceMail and they were delivered, and the senders added to the approved list. I got only one permission request. Because it was from a marketer, I refused it."

What's an appropriate response? Stacy chooses to delete rather than fill out the form: "I bought my list about a year ago, now, from another newsletter owner who was going out of business. I'm still deleting the address of angry people who claim they were never subscribed to any newsletter. So, when I see a wall go up, I don't argue, I just delete."

This message also shows up at times at Ezine-Tips. We do fill out the form, although the idea that we're confirming a confirmed request is a bit galling.

However, the silver lining is that you're probably collected a more engaged subscriber. If the subscriber approves your explanation, you go right to the "good" list. You might be tempted to write "Because you subscribed, you #@$%*!" but that will probably get you a fast trip to the dark side.

Ezine-Tips for October 07, 2002

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