Subscription Spam: How Often Is Too Often?

Every morning when I wake up, one of the first things I do is check my e-mail, a consequence of working for myself. Depending on what time I get up, there are anywhere from six to a dozen e-mails in my personal inbox and, with limited exception, most of them are daily messages from subscription services to which I have added my e-mail. Some I want every day -- news feeds, daily deal e-mails -- but others show up simply because I have a username and password registered with the company's website.

I know that I can go and turn off these notifications or remove myself from these services altogether. But, like many, I'm lazy. It is easier to just delete them and move on. This morning, as I was sending another batch of newsletter spam to its digital grave I wondered, how often should these e-mails be sent by default?

As I broke in down in my mind, I began to think there must be some logic to it. Advertisers want you to see their information, but they are keenly aware of the downfall of sending too many e-mails thus you ignore them or, worse yet, un-subscribe.

So, to me, it became clear there are five categories of subscription spam and they should be broken into timeliness: most to least frequent.

Type: Deals and Alerts Frequency: Multiple times per day

This can get very annoying if you are constantly being sent deals or alerts that don't apply to you, but this is a choice-based subscription, something you think will (or thought would) be beneficial to you. If it becomes a waste of your pixel space, you should un-subscribe. Otherwise, accept it and hope one of those deals is an of-a-lifetime variety.

Type: News Frequency: Daily

This is most often industry-specific. Newsletters that update you on things you are interested in are very common and can be extremely useful in parsing news. These are best sent on a daily basis, preferably at the same time every day so users can plan for it. Depending on the type of news, it could be five days per week or seven. Whatever the case, this should operate like a daily newspaper.

Type: Digests Frequency: Weekly

Digests can come in all shapes and sizes. Some are news, but others are sales deals. Amazon commonly sends e-mails based on recent searches or relating to music deals that week. As a general rule, one e-mail per week is enough for these sorts of things. This is particularly true if, like me, you research a lot of different things -- like for stories you write, for example. The result can often be a bunch of e-mails asking you if you are interested in things you are most certainly not. Limit it to once per week and we won't have a problem.

Type: Industry-Specific or Company-Specific News Frequency: Monthly

I often get e-mails from companies telling me all about their accomplishments or new features. These are fine in extreme moderation. The last thing I need in my inbox every day is some "tip of the day" explaining to me how to better use my app I rarely use in the first place. It's overkill. Stick with once per month.

Type: Subscriber Alerts Frequency: Only as needed

The tale of the Boy Who Cried Wolf would seem to apply to overzealous advertisers who want to bury you in e-mail alerts. I want to know if my account is about to expire or I have a bill due. But, I don't need to be alerted to every little special or tidbit of news. Send me the important stuff as needed and leave me alone otherwise.

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