What You Need to Know NOW About the New CAN-SPAM Act
Have you heard? The new CAN-SPAM Act becomes law on January 1,
2004, and it pre-empts most state regulations governing
commercial e-mail. (CAN-SPAM stands for Controlling the Assault
of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing.)
E-mail publishers are calling me in a tizzy, worried they'll be
jailed for simply continuing their publication. I'd like to be
first to say that you should NOT panic, as long as you're sending
out a true, content-laden publication and not just promotional
But ... you SHOULD use this alert as a wake-up call. It's time to
do a check-up on your publication.
CAN-SPAM defines commercial e-mail as that whose primary purpose
is to sell something. It doesn't define e-zines or e-mail
newsletters as commercial e-mail, even if they contain ads.
However the jury is still out how this can be interpreted. For
many of us, our prime reason for publishing is to promote our own
services and products.
The good news is that most small business owners are going to
have a much easier time complying with this law than big
companies with many different marketing lists and vendors.
Here are seven points you should address now, before the new
year. Please remember I'm not an attorney, so you'll want to view
the CAN-SPAM law yourself at spamlaws.com/federal/108s877.html.
1. Make sure your FROM and REPLY e-mail addresses are correct and
If you publish your e-zine with a fake or inactive reply
addresses, that's a no-no after Jan. 1. If you don't want to use
your normal e-mail address as your FROM/REPLY, create a new one,
but make sure it's one that you will check regularly. If you
don't know how to change your FROM/REPLY address, ask your list
host or e-mail publishing system representative.
2. Add your POSTAL mailing address to every issue of your e-zine.
This is now required, and is good practice anyway. Remember the
more "real" you appear to your readers, the more business you'll
do in the long run. I list my full mailing address, and I also
include my phone number. If you work at home and are
uncomfortable publicizing where you live, rent a mailbox around
the corner. (That's what I do.)
3. Honor UNSUBSCRIBES ASAP, and make sure it's easy to get off
The new CAN-SPAM law also requires you to remove a name from your
list within 10 business days of receiving the unsubscribe
request. If you use a list host or e-mail publishing system, this
should happen automatically and instantly. The only way you could
get into trouble on this one is if you do them by hand or if you
have multiple lists to cross-check, which could take you longer.
Also, look at your e-zine and make sure it's very obvious to the
reader how to be removed from your list.
4. Remind your readers they're getting a publication (not junk),
and publish regularly.
If you are a publication, then act like a publication by being
official and publishing regularly. Also remind your readers how
they got on your list. Example: "Published on the first and third Wednesdays of every month. You are receiving this e-zine because
you signed up at our Web site or have purchased a product from
us." (Also, consider getting an ISSN to register your e-zine with
the Library of Congress. It's free and makes you look very
5. Consider going double opt-in to protect yourself.
While CAN-SPAM does not require this, it's your safest option
with all the problems going around. If I sign up for your e-zine
at your Web site today and that puts me on your list, that's
single opt-in. If I'm required to reply to an e-mail confirmation
before I'm added to your list, that's double opt-in. Yes, you
will lose some sign-ups due to people who will not reply to the
confirmation message, but your list will be much cleaner and
safer in the end.
6. If you DO send out occasional promotions to your e-zine list,
make it clear that's part of the deal.
What if you mostly publish regular, content-filled issues, but
send out the occasional promotion for a special event or new
product? My advice to you is to make this clear where people sign
up, at your Web site or elsewhere. Example: "Along with our
biweekly e-zine, you will also receive a spec1al offer just once
a month that is available only to our subscribers. We will not
share your e-mail address with any third party."
7. Be cautious if you have multiple lists.
Here's where things can get messy. Suppose you publish your e-
zine with one system but maintain your customer lists with
another, such as your shopping cart system. If customer Jane Doe
unsubscribes from your e-zine but two weeks later receives a
special promotion you sent only to past customers, she may be mad
because she thought she'd be removed from ALL your lists.
The best solution is obviously to use one vendor for all your
list needs, but if that's not possible, make it very clear to
your readers what they are (and what they're not) unsubscribing
Wait, Is That It?
No. This is only the beginning, and thanks to some of the gray
areas of the CAN-SPAM law, I'm sure there will be new
developments in 2004. So keep your ears perked here for new
information as it's released!
. . .
Article by Alexandria K. Brownn - Copyright © 2003
Online marketing coach Alexandria K. Brown, "The E-zine Queen,"
is author of the award-winning tutorial package, 'Boost Business
With Your Own E-zine.' To learn more about this step-by-step
program, and to sign up for FREE how-to articles and FREE
teleclasses, visit http://www.EzineQueen.com
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