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One of the reasons for the failure of NatMags’ Jellyfish magazine has been blamed on email distribution problems. 

What lessons does this hold for email marketers?  

NatMags’ Jellyfish magazine was a digital magazine originally aimed at teenage girls (11 – 19). Earlier this month, it was pulled after a 20 week trial period. 

The magazine was delivered by email and suffered delivery problems with Hotmail. Hotmail's spam filters were blocking Jellyfish, even when it was requested by users. It is one of the most high profile examples where deliverability has directly affected the commercial success of a product.

There has been lots of industry discussion on who is to blame for the failure.  Was it NatMags’ choice of ESP? The product itself? The marketing strategy? Or was it the target market? 

Some are blaming the medium itself, something easily refuted given the success of Dennis’ Monkey magazine, which is posting record ABC audit figures. Indeed, representatives from Dennis are strong in their beliefs, arguing that “Natmags' biggest problem was the quality of their data and the product”.

What interests me in this story is the impact deliverability has played in the failure of this product - even though Duncan Edwards, chief executive of NatMags, tried to put a positive spin on it. He said: 

"(The trial) has been extremely valuable but we could not see a sustainable business model emerging. We have learnt a great deal about digital and email marketing, which will prove to be useful for our core business."

The bottom line is that problems in deliverability have wasted resource, budget, destroyed a revenue stream and perhaps most worryingly caused significant industry embarrassment for NatMags.

What can we learn from this?

The chosen email provider in this instance is receiving some really bad press.  But why?

It would seem that it didn’t really work with the client pre-launch to avoid these problems. Pre-launch, it's essential to look at how the data was collected, what permission has been given, the copy used in the emails, monitoring recipient complaints as well as broadcasting with an appropriate technical set-up. 

Getting these things wrong can sully the sender’s reputation (as happened in this case). Getting delivered into Hotmail is paramount for the success of any B2C email launch, as is Yahoo. Prevention is better than cure as, once tarnished, it’s a hell of a lot of work to repair it, and this may lead to a failed launch... like Jellyfish.  

It is also important to have a deliverability strategy. Simple steps such as pre-send testing to check content against all major spam filters, monitoring your sender reputation and measuring inbox placement give you visibility on the health of your sender reputation. 

Working closely with your ESP will also give you the opportunity to improve deliverability, turning this threat into an opportunity. 

Lets hope everyone learns this lesson for the success of all their own new email promotions…

Henry Hyder Smith is Adestra's managing director.

Henry Hyder-Smith

Published 29 August, 2007 by Henry Hyder-Smith

Henry Hyder-Smith is CEO at Adestra and a contributor to Econsultancy. 

24 more posts from this author

Comments (1)

Chris Byrne

Chris Byrne, CEO at Sensorpro.net

I guess it did not help that the email signup form has an intrusive sample signup popup advert that covers the screen. The close button was hard to see. I wonder what the abandonment rate was for that. My customers use Sensorpro for sample signups all the time but would never deploy like that. It should be in the email itself or in the confirm screen.

over 9 years ago

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