Spam: A Reality Check

By Lance Ulanoff  |  Posted 2004-02-18 Print this article Print

Recent developments lead to some startling conclusions about the state and future of spam.

The CAN-SPAM (Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing) act recently became law in the United States, and with just a little over a month of it under our belts, people are already passing judgment on this broad and, some might say, groundbreaking law.

On the surface, the verdict hasnt been positive. Im still flooded with spam, and in discussions with industry leaders (to say nothing of the news reports I read each day), the tide has yet to turn on this flood of unwanted e-mail. Im not surprised. When I learned about the proposed national law last year, I didnt see how it could address a global problem. And now some industry experts contend that CAN-SPAM is not just failing, its actually exacerbating the spam problem.

"Since January 1, we have seen no change in volume. In fact, spam has continued to rise," Susan Larson, Vice President of Global Content SurfControl (a corporate spam-management company), told me the other day. She adds, "One out of 20 spam e-mail were seeing... has new information added to appear legitimate."

The suggestion that a law designed to contain a problem could actually be helping it grow stunned me. Larson explained that there are a few critical pieces of the law—e-mail elements required to help people differentiate between legitimate and spam mail—that spammers are now manipulating to give their e-mails the illusion of legitimacy. One is the addition of an unsubscribe link; another is the inclusion of a snail-mail address. The third is the addition of nonpromotional content to switch the focus of the e-mail from trying to sell you something to, for instance, attempting to amuse you with, say, a silly fact of the day.

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Lance Ulanoff is Editor in Chief and VP of Content for PC Magazine Network, and brings with him over 20 years journalism experience, the last 16 of which he has spent in the computer technology publishing industry.

He began his career as a weekly newspaper reporter before joining a national trade publication, traveling the country covering product distribution and data processing issues. In 1991 he joined PC Magazine where he spent five years writing and managing feature stories and reviews, covering a wide range of topics, including books and diverse technologies such as graphics hardware and software, office applications, operating systems and, tech news. He left as a senior associate editor in 1996 to enter the online arena as online editor at HomePC magazine, a popular consumer computing publication. While there, Ulanoff launched, and and wrote about Web sites and Web-site building.

In 1998 he joined Windows Magazine as the senior editor for online, spearheading the popular magazine's Web site, which drew some 6 million page views per month. He also wrote numerous product reviews and features covering all aspects of the computing world. During his tenure, won the Computer Press Association's prestigious runner-up prize for Best Overall Website.

In August 1999, Ulanoff briefly left publishing to join as producer for the Computing and Consumer Electronics channels and then was promoted to the site's senior director for content. He returned to PC Magazine in November 2000 and relaunched in July 2001. The new was named runner-up for Best Web Sites at the American Business Media's Annual Neal Awards in March 2002 and won a Best Web Site Award from the ASBPE in 2004. Under his direction, regularly generated more than 25 million page views a month and reached nearly 5 million monthly unique visitors in 2005.

For the last year and a half, Ulanoff has served as Editor, Reviews, PC Magazine. In that role he has overseen all product and review coverage for PC Magazine and, as well as managed PC Labs. He also writes a popular weekly technology column for and his column also appears in PC Magazine.

Recognized as an expert in the technology arena, Lance makes frequent appearances on local, national and international news programs including New York's Eyewitness News, NewsChannel 4, CNN, CNN HN, CNBC, MSNBC, Good Morning America Weekend Edition, and BBC, as well as being a regular guest on FoxNews' Studio B with Shepard Smith. He has also offered commentary on National Public Radio and been interviewed by radio stations around the country. Lance has been an invited guest speaker at numerous technology conferences including Digital Life, RoboBusiness, RoboNexus, Business Foresight and Digital Media Wire's Games and Mobile Forum.

Lance also serves as co-host of PC Magazine's weekly podcast, PCMag Radio.


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