Most email newsletters are spam, file accordingly

Bare URLs are useful, for example:

  • they give users some idea of where a click will take them,
  • allow the browser to indicate to the user whether they’ve already gone there and otherwise act as agent in user’s interest,
  • allow the user to bookmark for later use without visiting first (and have the bookmark be intelligible, due to first item), and
  • help the user to copy and share link without looking like an inconsiderate fool or spammer, passing along above benefits.

When all of the links in a newsletter are opaque redirects, such as…–FFFFFFFFFFFFFF-FFFFFFFFFFFF==

…we know that the sending organization…

  • cares more about tracking the reader than providing useful information to the reader, and
  • probably [wants to] waste the reader’s money, assuming the reader is a [potential] customer or donor, expending staff and stakeholder time on presenting and reviewing facile and misleading click metrics rather than doing a better job.

…you might not want to unsubscribe, because you might want information from the partially stupid organization sending such inconsiderate email newsletters. But do tell them to be considerate, and in the meantime, file accordingly.

8 Responses

  1. maiki says:

    I read my mail in mutt, and newsletters generally really suck. I make it a point to forward garbled text to someone to show them how I see it.

    A few observations:

    • One of the reason links are not allowed on The Listserve is because they use MailChimp, and mail chimp automatically adds tracking codes to text links.
    • Basecamp’s text version of their emails are formatted quite nicely, I was surprised. I figured they wouldn’t care, but they use Mailgun, so it may be that service that inspired it to work well.
    • Some mailing lists allow folks to set both a text version and an HTML version, and then load past mailings to edit. Often times the editor won’t change the text version, so I get mailings showing “upcoming events” that happened months ago. So sad.

    A free software company providing sane email blasts is low-hanging fruit!

  2. Francesco says:

    Clear and enjoyable article. In so many words, that’s why I prefer RSS over newsletters (or more in general, pull vs. push).

  3. john says:

    Even worse are the ones that use HTML to disguise their opaque redirects as bare URLs. Mail clients that automatically mark these as potential phishing attempts because are doing the right thing.

  4. maiki, hilarious third point! Somehow akin to hidden metadata and dark archives.

    Francesco, indeed pull > push. Curious how former seems to engender better practice (eg it’s rare to see a redirect URL on a web page such as a post that is syndicated, and when one does see such, it looks really out of place) though I wonder if the dimension of public / private plays even more strongly: a web page is typically public, but an email is not; embarrassing spammy tactics are relatively hidden.

    john, no doubt that’s a far worse practice, but I don’t recall seeing it in email newsletters from otherwise well meaning organizations, while blatantly opaque tracking redirect links are the usual.

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