Spam, what is it good for? Apparently something.
August 20, 2008 7:55 AM   Subscribe

Point of order: what you're talking about actually isn't spam. Spam is advertising email. The article is talking about advertising paper mail. There's a big, big difference; a friend of mine is a reporter for a direct-marketing industry trade magazine, and would be first to not just tell you what the difference is, but to provide copious examples of both.

But -- still interesting info nonetheless. I've been hyper-aware of the state of mail in New Orleans since Katrina, since said friend is also a huge lover of New Orleans and has said a lot of things before about how businesses are handling things. Initially, the biggest problem most businesses had was that when postal service first was restored, only first-class mail was allowed. So -- that ruled out magazines, ad circulars, fundraising letters, catalogs, etc. Only first-class mail. Which to some sounds like nirvana, but consider if you are a small business IN New Orleans trying to recover. You have a paper catalog you send out; most of your customers live in New Orleans as well. But -- you can only use first-class mail. Now - say you have a thousand customers to mail this catalog to. And say that it's a four-ounce catalog. That's about $2,700 in postage to send out your catalogs. Cuts into your profits, don't it?

My friend had a lot of stories like this -- stuff that I wouldn't have thought about. In early 2006, 6 month after Katrina, he went there to do a series of articles on the recovery, from a direct-marketing angle. This piece delves into the postage-rate issue in particular.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:08 AM on August 20, 2008 [2 favorites]

End point of order.

Penalty for taking too long.
posted by Deathalicious at 8:34 AM on August 20, 2008 [2 favorites]

...the massive database used by Valassis Communications' RedPlum direct-mail operation... [is] now being used to track the speed of recovery in the Crescent City.

This is pretty cool. Neat FPP. Thanks!
posted by KokuRyu at 8:42 AM on August 20, 2008

End point of order. Penalty for taking too long.

*sheepish* Did I actually do something wrong? My apologies; most of that was actually just continuing the conversation to soften my nitpick, to be honest.

Fair cop, though.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:28 AM on August 20, 2008

Yeah, calling these guys spammers isn't fair to them. Spammers take advantage of the fact that email is essentially free to pollute the Internet with advertising. Direct marketers pay their own costs, they don't hijack anyone else's infrastructure. They pay for what they use.

In a very real way, their existence keeps stamps cheap.
posted by Malor at 9:58 AM on August 20, 2008

This is fascinating.
posted by Damn That Television at 10:16 AM on August 20, 2008

Did I actually do something wrong?

No, sorry. It's just whenever I hear "point of order", I think of Mao.
posted by Deathalicious at 10:18 AM on August 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

Penalty for talking?
posted by recoveringsophist at 10:45 AM on August 20, 2008

Deathalicious' comment seemed a lot weirder to me before I rolled over the link.
posted by roll truck roll at 11:01 AM on August 20, 2008

mail delivery/nondelivery was a true pain in the butt after the storm. i applauded the first time i saw a mailman on my street, and i *still* let them cut in front of me in grocery lines and lunch lines. it absolutely RULES to have mail delivery!

direct marketing = junk mail; spam = junk email. regardless, i'm happy to have the numbers. i still wonder how many of those households are occupied by transient contractors.

empressC: interesting article. i've been here for 2 decades & peripherally involved with the music business for the last 10 years. that was the first i ever heard of jazzology or jazzbeat.
posted by msconduct at 11:19 AM on August 20, 2008

Msconduct: Thanks! He did a whole series that week -- some were more about direct-marketing and direct-mail wonk stuff, but another thing he did was about a store called the "kitchen witch" or something like that which also may be a great place to check out. If you do a search for "Live from New Orleans" on the DIRECT site you'll find the rest of his pieces from that time.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:35 AM on August 20, 2008

Whoops -- searching for "live from new orleans" will also give you results for years' worth of conventions on direct marketing that happened in New Orleans, so be warned...anything with a February or March 2006 date are things that he did in that one week post-Katrina.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:36 AM on August 20, 2008

Just to the south of New Orleans here in St. Bernard parish the sheriff estimates that 35,000 to 37,000 people occupy the parish, down from a pre-Katrina 67,000. That's a 52% to 55% range. As I sit here Bush has just departed Jackson Barracks in Arabi where I live. He drove back down St. Bernard highway to get on his helicopter and they wouldn't let you within a half block of his motorcade even if you were on foot so I didn't get to "wave" goodbye. I hope he got a good look out of his tinted windows.
posted by vapidave at 2:12 PM on August 20, 2008

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