Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
August 25, 2008 7:10 AM

Spam Works - Sad But True

Is the amount of Spam you're getting bringing your online depression to new heights? I'm getting it too. Spam - now new and improved. I've had spam in Twitter, the latest pain has been Spam in Facebook and I'm dealing with this insane amount of fake CNN and MSNBC spam in my email in box (it's so good that - at first - I thought it was real email from the two news outlets).

There's a reason you can't get away from it: It works.

Check out this news item from AppScout: 29 Percent of Internet Users Admit Purchasing from Spam.


That's nearly one-third of the entire online population (and, for the record, this is inching ever-closer to the one billion person mark).

"29 percent of Internet users that admit to purchasing items from spam email, according to a recent survey. Often these goods are pirated, counterfeit, or cheap knock-offs that would be difficult to come by through the legitimate market... More than 150 billion spam messages circulate daily, accounting for more than 85 percent of the total number of emails sent throughout the world. The sheer volume of spam consumes an enormous amount of bandwidth and remains one of the Internet's biggest security problems."

The report was put together by Marshal's Threat Research and Content Engineering (TRACE) team and you can review their news release here: Sex, Drugs and Software Lead Spam Purchase Growth.

And, it's not just fake Rolex watches that we're buying. Get ready for this:

"The most commonly purchased items include sexual enhancement pills, software, adult material and luxury items such as watches, jewellery and clothing."

Common knowledge dictates that the open and response rates for Spam is minimal, but with that much messaging being plugged into the tubes, it's clear that there are still enough financial rewards for the spammers to continue working the channel.

And here's the sad reality:

“A common misconception is that ‘regular’ people don’t buy from spam. But, you have to consider the types of products people are buying. It’s pirated software, knock-off watches, counterfeit designer goods, cheap drugs and prescription medicines, pornography and other adult material. The Internet provides convenience and a degree of anonymity to people who want to buy illegal or restricted goods. It is a black market and spam has become a conventional means of advertising to a willing audience of millions of people who are purchasing from spam.” 

If you follow the numbers, we're talking about 250 million people who are - obviously - interested in this type of messaging. This is the paradox of advertising. The general consumer screams for less and less advertising, but buys into it at such a furious rate that although they say they're not interested, they are sustaining the business model by voting with their dollars. The old adage continues to be true: if you really don't want spam, stop buying from these types of messages. There is another theory that if less and less people responded to Spam, the spammers would kick it up and increase the messaging. I don't believe this to be true. Spammers use this channel because it is cheap and cost effective. They'll move on to something else once the fast buck is no longer ready for the taking.

By Mitch Joel

Comments Comments Feed
  • Posted by Albert Maruggi
    Mitch Joel

    OK, it has come together in one sad moment thanks to you Mitch Joel. Your post about SPAM working on the day of the Democratic National Convention in the US is depressing. This should be an historical campaign of two candidates that give the US clear and different paths for the future.

    It looks like instead of a fair discussion of the issues, it will be a typical negative led trashing of quotes out of context and minor missteps made to portray the other as having fatal character flaws. Why? because like SPAM, negative ads work. The best SPAM and ads work because they have similar characteristics.

    1) they look credible or funny catching our attention

    2) they invite consideration, whether that consideration comes in the form of opening the email or opening your mind to the illusion it is about to present as truth

    So fight SPAM and negative ads by calling them out for what they are, a deception for personal gain.

    Thanks, I’m over my sad moment now, on with a glorious day.

  • Wow. I'm totally changing my marketing strategy this morning. 29% conversion rate is AWESOME compared to just about any other form of marketing.

  • Posted by Cam Beck
    Mitch Joel

    "Check out this news item from AppScout: 29 Percent of Internet Users Admit Purchasing from Spam."

    Aaaaaaagh! Say it ain't so!

  • Posted by Mario Parise
    Mitch Joel

    @ Christopher Penn - I know you're kidding, but for the record it's not a 29% conversion rate. 29% of people admit to having bought something at least once from spam. If the average person gets (say) a thousand pieces of spam in a month, then you're really looking at a 0.029% conversion rate. (note: my math sucks, so that may be off).

    @ Mitch - This is a pretty shocking finding, I have to admit. It makes sense though (tragically). At the end of the day, there is a hige blackmarket for these products. How else are they going to be sold? The work involved in running a website to sell them and get good SEO would be worthless because the sites would get pulled down too fast. Spam allows near-immediate results. The websites used to process the sales can probably be built and taken down in the span of a few days and still turn a good profit.

  • Posted by Zac Martin
    Mitch Joel

    Stupid consumers.

    If interruption has a future then I would like to inform everyone that I have cheap Viagra and free porn on my blog if anyone is interested.

  • Posted by Chris Clarke
    Mitch Joel

    Unbelievable! Thanks for posting this Mitch. What a huge surprise! And 29% probably wouldn't be representative of the population, but it's still unbelievably high.

  • Posted by Donna Papacosta
    Mitch Joel

    Very interesting to see these stats, Mitch. All along, I have figured that spam must work because the spammers keep doing it. The volume I receive grows daily. So far I have avoided buying a knockoff Rolex, sex enhancement pills or anything else. Ick.

  • Posted by Stevie Z
    Mitch Joel

    Small victory story - I had just placed an order with an online printing company for some bus. cards, vehicle magnets, banners, etc - came to around $300. Was about to give final approval for the order when I happened to check out an old email account I haven't used in years - whaddaya know - this company was a HUGE spammer. I called their head of sales, explained who I was and gave her my order info, and then explained exactly WHY I was canceling my order. I refuse to knowingly do business with companies that use spam to advertise.

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