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'Biggest Thing to Hit Email in 10 Years:' Expert

02/01/11

By Ken Magill

Miami--In a move that has revolutionary implications for email marketing, Yahoo and Hotmail--and to a lesser extent, Gmail--have quietly begun allowing senders to include dynamic content in their messages.

The development allows marketers to do previously unheard-of things such as change the content of an email after it goes out.

"This is the biggest thing to happen to email in 10 years," said Joshua Baer, founder and CEO of OtherInbox, who took part in a presentation on the development today at the Email Evolution Conference in Miami.

"Dynamic content in an email makes the email just like a Web page," he said. "You can now run JavaScript in an email. Once you can run JavaScript, you can do anything."

Baer added that for the last 10 years, email has been stagnant in large part because of security concerns.

"We got HTML but it was broken HTML," he said.

The ability to serve dynamic content conceivably allows marketers to overcome the image-rendering issues that have been so prevalent in email for the last decade.

This new feature also allows recipients to interact with the messages without leaving their inboxes, Baer said.

"This is their [Yahoo!'s and Microsoft's] answer to Facebook," he said. Currently, when someone gets an email from Facebook, clicking on it results in leaving Yahoo! and Hotmail and going to Facebook--good for Facebook's traffic numbers, bad for Yahoo!'s and Hotmail's.

With their new dynamic content feature, the email recipient stays on Yahoo! or Hotmail.

But wouldn't Facebook have to adopt this feature and wouldn't Facebook balk at adopting such a feature?

"Maybe, maybe not," said Baer. "Think of it this way: Every action you require users to take costs you conversions."

So while, say, Groupons may lose some traffic using Yahoo!'s and Hotmail's dymanic content capabilities, it gains enough in sales conversions to make the traffic loss worthwhile, said Baer.

As far as Gmail goes, Baer said, the inbox provider is currently making dynamic content available in its corporate users' inboxes only.

While information surrounding these developments has been made public, the ISPs are apparently skittish about promoting them.

For example, a representative of Microsoft was scheduled to participate in the presentation this morning in Miami with Responsys' Aaron Smith, but was forced by upper management to cancel at the last minute. Baer stepped in to take his place.

"Everything we're talking about here is public," said Baer. "I just don't think they're ready for 500 marketers to call them and say: 'I want to try dynamic content.' Right now they're looking for large brands with great email practices to beta test it."

Author's note: Some readers mave have noticed that the e-Dialog ad appearing in The Magill Report email newsletter this week is an ad for an event that has already taken place. That is my fault. While my vendor switched out the ads on The Magill Report home page and article pages, she neglected to do so in the newsletter and I neglected to make sure the newsletter ad was switched.

My vendor is in France, so she is probably drinking wine somewhere by now. As a result, I can't get the ad switched and I've got to get this newsletter out. So e-Dialog, please accept my apologies and assurance I'll make this right. And readers, please click the crap out of e-Dialog's ad next to this article.

You see, I'm at the Email Evolution Conference in Miami. So are some folks from e-Dialog. I'm going to have to see them shortly. They're nice folks, but this is a pretty stupid screwup.

If you click enough, maybe they'll go easy on me.

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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: Haggis
Date: 2011-02-04 04:12:10
Subject: Good for consumers?

My concern? The advent of animated, intrusive and distracting adverts in emails. Also, how long before this is used as just another attack vector by malware authors?
Posted by: Joshua Baer
Date: 2011-02-03 15:08:34
Subject: More info...

If anyone wants to learn more about this topic, feel free to contact me on Twitter @joshuabaer

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