June 20, 2009

How "Do Not Spam" Laws Help and Hurt You

There are people who would like to get rid of minimum wage. But we have to have it, because if we didn't some people would not get paid money. They would work all week for two loaves of bread and some Spam. --- Chris Rock

We don't want to be paid in Spam (canned, spiced ham) or pained by spam (emails we didn't agree to receive).
Canada is the lone G8 country without anti-spam legislation, and in 2007, was ranked number six in a list of top 10 worst countries for originating spam.
--- Canadian Lawyer
In 2008, Canada ranked #4 on the Spam by Originating Country list, according to Cisco. Spauhaus, a nonprofit that tracks spam, doesn't include Canada in the top 10. The United States "wins" in each survey.

Better To Give Than Receive
Let's not quibble over which country spews the most spam. Let's turn to us, the recipients. We can take precautions by using anti-spam filters and email services that weed that garbage out. Gmail and Kaspersky Internet Security work well for me.

Like the Do Not Call lists which prevent unsolicited phone calls, Do Not Email rules are a great idea. Some argue that honest small businesses can get hurt inadvertently. How?

Let's look at an example. Financial advisors who serve you well are already send you timely, meaningful email. They have your permission and won't be affected by the new rules. In practice, very few independent advisors send out email or newsletters, which creates opportunities for their larger competitors.

If you can't be contacted directly, advisors might to advertise to you or attract you in other ways. Ads in old-world media --- tv, radio, newspaper, flyers, billboards --- aren't targeted and get lost in the clutter. Money gets wasted as the wrong people get interrupted.

Targeted online advertising can work well. Think of Google Adwords. You get unobtrusive ads related to what you're seeking at exactly the right millisecond. Nice. Unless you use adblockers like the free Adblock Plus for FireFox. Then you're on your own Do Not Advertise list.

A Better Way
There's an even better way. Advisors can create quality content. Say you want to know what Warren Buffett thinks about buying term life insurance. Type in "warren buffett term insurance" in Google, Bing or Yahoo. You'll get links to my 2007 post that currently ranks higher than BBC News, Bloomberg, CNBC, Marketwatch.com, Wikipedia and even Berkshire Hathaway (where I pulled Warren's profound quote).

Discovery trumps advertising any day. Discovery is free. Any advisor can make themselves easy to find. Advisors then switch from annoying pest to welcome guest.

Why Aren't More Advisors Online?
Books are the last bastion of the old business model—the only major medium that still hasn't embraced the digital age. Publishers and author advocates have generally refused to put books online for fear the content will be Napsterized. --- Clive Thompson, Wired 17.06
We go online for information, but meaningful objective financial information can be difficult to find and hard to understand (especially for the life insurance strategies the wealthy use).

Advisors are reluctant to put meaningful information online. They're afraid that competitors would steal their best ideas. In contrast, authors and bloggers share their best to get read. Recently, Darren Rowse posted 31 Days To Build A Better Blog day by day for free at Problogger. Then he started selling a nicely formatted, expanded ebook, which some (like me) bought for the convenience.

The mystique that advisors create works against them because you can't gauge the quality of what they offer without getting personally involved --- a big commitment of your time and a loss of privacy.

Not all unsolicited email is bad. You lose when something valuable doesn't get through. Do Not Spam laws will protect your privacy. What's next? How about saving trees with Do Not Junk Mail rules?

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