Today’s post is a bit more practical in nature. I started this site with the intention of helping creative people do their thing, and sometimes that thing is a little technical – whether we want it to be or not. It may get a little thick in here for a moment, but bear with me.
If you have an email address, this will impact you. If you have your own newsletter, be sure to read part II to learn about critical changes you’ll need to make in order to keep getting seen.
First, a bit of history.
Did you know that email is over 50 years old? 53, to be exact. In its early days even Queen Elizabeth jumped in on the action, sending her first email in 1976. It has long been considered one of the most successful methods of communication, with an estimated 4+ billion users worldwide.
But, it is inherently insecure.
The first spam email was sent in 1978, and today it’s estimated that spam accounts for nearly half of all email messages sent.
Thankfully, most of those don’t make it to your inbox.
They’re filtered out by your email provider, whether that’s Gmail, Yahoo, or someone else. These filters look for patterns and clues to prevent an estimated 99.9% of spam from ever reaching your inbox – or even your spam filter. They simply vanish into the ether without you even knowing they were there.
But, spam still does happen.
I’m guessing you’re pretty aware of this. Spammers can pretend to be someone you trust, or even pretend to be you.
The newsletters you write and send
For those of you – and me – who write and send newsletters via email, pretending to be someone else is kinda part of the package. My newsletter software “pretends” to be me in order to send my newsletter to readers. I’m not sending it to them directly; my software is sending it for me. The from address says it’s me, but technically it’s not coming from my outbox.
Newsletters are kinda like having Shutterfly send your Christmas cards. You’re writing the words, choosing the images, and providing the addresses, but Shutterfly puts the stamp on and pops them in the mail.
No big deal, right? This is just how the system works.
The filters can tell a good newsletter from a spammy newsletter by using context clues. What percentage of recipients are opening the email? What percentage are clicking on the included links? And so on.
Incidentally, if you want to support a small newsletter you love, open it and click on a link. What you’re doing is telling the filters that this is a good one – keep letting it through. Readers get to keep reading, senders get to keep sending, and the system all works as it should.
Except when a spammer impersonates a legitimate newsletter.
The challenge is if a spammer impersonates someone with a genuine newsletter, let’s say an artist who shares her work with interested readers. The filters associate the spammer with the artist. After all, they’re both claiming to be the same person – the filter can’t tell the impersonator from the original.