Happy Birthday SPAM
There is an interesting and odd birthday this week. Thirty years ago someone did something that has grown and morphed into a global enterprise. There are those who are happy about it and those that use every fiber in their being to defeat, diminish and hopefully destroy its very presence. I am, of course, talking about public Internet enemy No. 1 … SPAM.
The first SPAM message was sent on May 3, 1978. It was sent by Gary Maynard of the Digital Equipment Corporation. He sent what is believed to be the first unsolicited electronic message promoting the company’s products. This world’s first e-mailed SPAM message was sent to a mere 393 people on the Arpanet network. Arpanet predates what we now know as the Internet, but it was and is the foundation for the beloved World Wide Web.
There ought to be a dialog somewhere about what is and isn’t SPAM. Here is a weird one for you. I get spammed by my father. Yep, it’s true. Every junk warning and false news release is forwarded to me by my dad. I have asked many times for him not to forward to me any of the usual suspects. You know what I mean: The USPS is going to charge 5 cents for e-mail, because they are loosing money on snail mail. Or the famous Microsoft/AOL money giveaway. It’s SPAM and it comes to me from own family. Yes, he means well, but junk e-mail is junk e-mail, no matter the origin.
So, what about publishers and other businesses? Do we send out unintentional SPAM to our “family” members? You bet we do.
I will admit that there is good e-mail and bad e-mail. But I feel strongly that each SPAM message we receive diminishes the perceived value of all e-mail. If you have to question the veracity of everything, then everything is suspect to the accusation of intrusion.
I don’t have the answers to this dilemma, just the observations. The thing that publishers need to understand and watch out for is that even lowly SPAM is the distribution of words. Some words we want and some we don’t. How do we protect our franchise in the digital future if the delivery of words is suspect? The only answer I can think of is that if we protect the brand we protect our future.
More on SPAM’s birthday here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/05/02/AR2008050203767.html?hpid=topnews