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What the Heck Happened to Hillary's List?

By Ken Magill
A couple weeks ago, I posted an article questioning the often-cited industry stat that 30 percent of people change their email addresses every year.
It just didn’t make sense to me. It still doesn’t.
However, a bunch of folks forwarded an article to me from the L.A. Times last week claiming that in the intervening years since she last ran for president, Hillary Clinton’s email list has been decimated.
The article is an indication maybe that 30 percent email-churn-per-year figure isn’t as off as I think.
“Hillary Rodham Clinton wound down her political operation in 2008 with 2.5 million email addresses in her campaign database,” the article began. “Seven years later, when campaign officials turned on the lights in April, they were stunned to find fewer than 100,000 still worked.”
“’It wasn’t like we all had time to retreat to a local bar and drown our sorrows,’ said Teddy Goff, the Clinton campaign’s digital director – a role he also filled for President Obama’s reelection campaign. ‘It was an instantaneous recognition on the part of a lot of us that we had a bigger challenge ahead of us than we realized.’”
So a campaign staffer went on the record telling a reporter Clinton’s email list was decimated. People only talk to reporters when they think there’s something in it for them. Political campaign staffers are no different.
I honestly can’t figure this one out. But I bet Magill Report readers can. Two questions: Why would a campaign staffer tell a reporter Clinton’s list was so decimated? And if he’s being accurate, what the heck happened to it?
I would love to publish some thoughtful answers next week. And remember, this is not about politics. It is about email marketing. So please keep your personal opinions about Clinton to yourselves. I would rather not upset half my readers, thank you.
Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section. But be aware, my comments tool has been known to malfunction, so make sure you type them in a Word document first. Feel free to email me thoughts at

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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: Dela Quist
Date: 2015-07-29 19:26:11
Subject: One dead swallow does not make a summer

Hi Ken In all the time you have been making this point has it ever occurred to you or any of your regular readers that until now no one has been able come up with categorical proof that the 30% per year attrition rate is true? That is because it simply isn’t true. So it is hardly surprising that the supporters of this view have seized upon this article so eagerly. As far as your point is concerned this proves nothing. The data used in the article is no longer relevant today In internet terms 2008 when Hillary collected the addresses was 70 years ago, consumer email was in its infancy. At that time there less than a billion personal email addresses in the world - Gmail had 25M users then (500M today) AOL 40M Hotmail 50M Yahoo had 90M – these numbers are not exact, but you get the point. If you were to go back to 2008 and average out growth in smartphone ownership and use it to prove a point about next year’s growth you would come up with an equally silly number Dela
Posted by: Bill Kaplan
Date: 2015-07-21 17:26:16
Subject: Email attrition rates

The "decimation" of Hillary Clinton's email list is to be expected over a 7 year period and equates to an approximately 30% churn rate in email addresses per year. If anyone wants Hillary to reconnect with her lost followers so she can win this election, please send her to FreshAddress. Our Email Change of Address (ECOA) service can help her reconnect with her wandering constituents by providing her with guaranteed deliverable email addresses in place of her old, dead addresses. Or you could always let Donald Trump win as I’m sure he’ll be getting a lot of votes from Mexican aliens who illegally cross the border to influence American elections among other things. Haha.
Posted by: Greg Williams (Patramount Communication, Inc.)
Date: 2015-07-21 17:05:17
Subject: Delivery, delivery, delivery

I would first look long and hard at what Clinton's team is calling bounces. It's entirely possible that a few prospecting emails (especially ones to a list that is SEVEN years old) could have triggered some serious blocks. To the untrained eye, a 50% bounce rate might mean something very different than to someone with delivery experience. What domains were they mailing from? What sort of authentication? How many IPs? I would also look back to see what sort of information was available about the list's prior activities: who has ever opened? ever clicked? How did your historic openers fare in the bounce bloodbath? I would grab 10K names as a sample for list scrubbing and send it over to the pros at to validate. Our process would quickly identify anticipated bounces to give an overall rating of the list's viability and deliverability. Depending on the overall delivery prospects of the list, we might suggest a social append or similar to find the live fish in that very big barrel. (More info: But you're right, Ken. 2.5 million to 100K is a nonsensical drop that betrays someone's misunderstanding of some of email marketing's most basic concepts. It takes a village...
Posted by: Nathan
Date: 2015-07-21 16:48:25
Subject: Awareness

I think they're publicizing this because they hope that some people will say "Hey, I used to be subscribed to Hillary Clinton's emails but I changed my address. Gee, I think I'll resubscribe with my new email address?" Maybe they'll get back a couple thousand subscribers this way.