E-mail Takes Another Shot to the Gut
Publishers that rely on e-newsletters and e-mail marketing campaigns took an unexpected hit five years ago when Microsoft changed the way it displayed HTML in its Outlook e-mail program.
Starting with the release of Office 2007, the graphics "engine" that displays HTML e-mail would no longer be the same one used in the company's once dominant Internet Explorer web browser. Instead, Microsoft decided to use Word. To this day, I still get calls from surprised advertisers and sales reps who don't understand why their animated gifs aren't... animating. Text ads anyone?
Microsoft went on record saying that the primary reason for the change was minimizing security risks, though e-mail service providers (ESPs), marketers and publishers already knew this was a fight that couldn't be won. Hey after all, anyone who has ever owned a PC running Windows knows how good Microsoft is with security!
The company's latest announcement regarding e-mail involves its Windows Live Hotmail service. The changes include authenticating trusted senders with a special icon and one-click filters allowing users to see e-mail from one sender or a known contact. There's also a new "Prompted Unsubscribe" feature that deals with subscribers who never bother to opt-out of a list and just repeatedly delete e-mails from the same senders. Hotmail will now prompt users to unsubscribe from these e-mails and block future messages from being delivered.
If someone on your technical team isn't staying on top of these changes, at least your ESP should be. Luckily, our ESP sent out an update this week to all of our administrators detailing what Microsoft is up to. Our vendor went on to stress the importance of e-mail reputation and engagement.
When news like this comes, I can't help but wish my only concern was still debating unconfirmed opt-in, double opt-in or opt-out.