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Ken Magill

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Aptly Named 'Deliverability Douchebag' Speaks

By Ken Magill
Of all the comments that rolled in after last week’s piece calling BS on the email-service-provider deliverability community, my favorite was the following:
“Posted by: Deliverability Douchebag 
“Date: 2015-02-20 02:35:27
“A more responsible writer might try to get a comment on the record from a primary source instead of relying on one man's recollection of a few minutes of the event - especially when his recollection so conveniently supports his own long-held and frequently debunked opinion. Why not ask Mr. Scarrow himself? Maybe a comment from the EEC organizers? Nothing in the piece indicates that our intrepid reporter even attempted to obtain comment from a primary source before publication.
“Another ace job, Ken. Maybe your business model is not your problem.”
Thank you, Douchebag. And you’re right. An explanation is in order.
I first learned of the Email Experience Council panel discussion—where it was reportedly revealed that four major email inbox providers do not track clicks—on the Friday night before I published the story. I publish on Tuesdays. As a result, I had one business day to nail the story down.
I happen to know from personal experience—as in actually trying to secure interviews with Microsoft executives over the years—that my chances of getting John Scarrow to speak to me, a small-time blogger, on the record ever, much less in one day, were effectively zero.
So here is what I did: I called a source who is deeply involved in the EEC and who attended the event in question. He verified Quist’s recollection. He also sent me a link to a post on the MailUp blog by Massimo Arrigoni that also verified Quist’s recollection.
So as far as I was concerned I had three sources independently reporting the same information. Maybe that isn’t enough for you but it was enough for me.
Moreover, if it turned out my three sources’ recollections were wrong, I would report it here in a second.
So far no one has challenged Quist’s recollection, not even you.
Moreover, you claimed Quist’s opinions have been repeatedly debunked. Really? Where? I have interviewed Quist countless times and attended three of his presentations. In all my interactions with him, not once has he failed to back up his claims with actual numbers.
Sure, it’s possible he pulls his numbers out of his ass, but I have yet to witness any rebuttal to his assertions based on other numbers. If I ever do, I will report it here. I have no skin in this game other than relaying accurate information.
I am also deeply disappointed you are apparently unable to discuss the actual point.
Let me lay it out for you. Over the years, a bunch of email-service-provider deliverability specialists have asserted that email inbox providers track—among other things—opens and clicks to measure engagement with senders’ messages and make deliverability decisions as a result.
Using the opens-and-clicks premise, those same people have been making ironclad recommendations, such as remove email addresses from a file that have shown no open-or-click activity in 18 months.
Now we find out—if multiple sources are correct—that, AOL, Gmail, and Comcast do not track clicks. Not just as some are claiming, but all four. If anyone out there has any evidence to dispute the recollections of three sources, again, I’m all ears.
No one is claiming opens and clicks are useless metrics.
However, what the newly revealed information from this year’s EEC conference means is that a bunch of deliverability folks have been making ironclad recommendations based on a flawed premise.
Once a premise is determined to be flawed, everything built on that premise comes into question.
I have two doctors: A general practitioner and an endocrinologist. They both have one thing in common: The ability to say, “I don’t know” when they’re asked a question they can’t answer. It’s why I trust them.
If the ESP deliverability community would have operated with a little less certitude and a little more like my doctors over the years, my guess is their list-hygiene recommendations would have been more nuanced and a bunch of permission-based commercial email lists would be significantly larger than they are today. 
Instead, they have apparently been advising people to take actions that may have cost them real revenue potential.
And rather than welcoming the idea that we may have finally gained some real insight into what email inbox providers do monitor—even though it’s insight that bolsters the opinion of someone you apparently dislike—you, Douchebag, lash out.
You have been given an opportunity to take a leadership position by embracing new information and interpreting it in ways beneficial to your clients’ email marketing programs and you refuse. 
If I were your client and could identify you, I would call your boss and demand that you never be allowed within 1,000 feet of my email list ever again. You are apparently among those who have been recommending marketers butcher their email lists based on a flawed premise. 
And rather than react to new information like a mature professional, you are clearly more interested in massaging your own ego and confirming your now clearly questionable beliefs than processing the information with your clients’ best interests in mind—in other words, doing your friggin’ job you intellectually lazy jackwad.
Moreover, I am hearing from multiple sources you are not the only one doubling down.
Not coincidentally, new subscriptions rolled into the Magill Report last week at a rate I haven’t seen since I first began publishing it in 2010.
People are highly interested in this discussion. If anyone out there has an evidence-based contrarian take on this issue and wants to discuss the actual point, we’re all ears. 
Your move, Douchebag.

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Terms: Feel free to be as big a jerk as you want, but don't attack anyone other than me personally. And don't criticize people or companies other than me anonymously. Got something crappy to say? Say it under your real name. Anonymous potshots and personal attacks aimed at me, however, are fine.

Posted by: Andrew Barrett
Date: 2015-02-25 09:33:51
Subject: Don't forget about traps.

One of the main reasons why email people recommend dropping unengaged recipients after 18 months or so is because of the likelihood that some of those addresses or domains have been converted into spam traps. The average churn on free inboxes is about two years. Trap hits, I think everyone agrees, inhibit deliverability - we need look no further than Spamcop to know it's true. I think Delivery Guy below summed it up nicely in his comment. Howsoever ISPs measure engagement, it correlates strongly with what ESPs can measure. And bear in mind that, in the case of shared infrastructure, the mistakes of one customer has an impact on all of the others. Delivery people want to help senders make money, but they have to protect the reputation of their entire infrastructure so all of their customers can make money both right now and in in the future.
Posted by: Delivery Guy
Date: 2015-02-25 08:27:31
Subject: What is the debate?

Some deliverability rules: 1. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. 2. If it is broke, and the client isn't doing something irresponsible, and the ISP is unwilling to change their determination, then targeting down to opens and clicks tends to fix things ~95% of the time. Whether this is because some ISPs measure opens and clicks directly or they measure things that are intensely correlated with opens and clicks is fruitless (for everyone but Ken who now has lots of new subscribers).
Posted by: Michael Ellis
Date: 2015-02-24 18:32:05
Subject: Douchebag

As a deliverability guy for years I have been saying engagement matters but engagement for an ISP is not the same as engagement for a site sending email. Nice to be vindicated
Posted by: Jon Raney
Date: 2015-02-24 16:37:06
Subject: prev. post

sorry in below I meant to say 'seminars ' i.e. places where real people meet
Posted by: Jon Raney
Date: 2015-02-24 16:33:57
Subject: deleting inactives

Hi Ken, Just to make sure I understand the specific point here. You are referring to the recent accepted premise that deliverability was impacted by ISP's scoring inactives negatively, yes? If so, yes I worked with my ESP who has never mentioned that. There is enough other stuff to worry about without that ;) For example rigid domain or enterprise filtering are often insurmountable on a global level without an admin getting involved. Network Solutions as a host for example can be impossible and quite pervasive as a host. Whole sets of domains can be undeliverable in this case. That said, the gestalt of having inactives on your list can cause some issues for you in the long run. From a metrics point of view. Because if you keep bench marking your open rate against that big denominator and you have to report to constituents you will be stuck with it. That is why have a subscriber nurture system in place is key. The one thing I find ironic with the EEC is their emails are consistently unengaging and unappealing - they violate the 1st cardinal rule- they consistently make their emails about themselves not the users. Only their webinars - there is sort of a rule about talking about yourself where both of you know they are but are willing to get good info in the process.
Posted by: Bob Frady
Date: 2015-02-24 15:47:48
Subject: You're right

The information you presented in your article is correct. I was there. So now you have four sources. DD won't try to counter your arguments with data because the data simply does not support the "trim the list" approach to email marketing. Besides, it's easier just to call you names. But this is a nice takedown. Thank you!