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On AOL Newsletter Deliverability

Monday, July 24, 2006

We're tracking an intermittent deliverability issue with AOL addresses. Updates here as and when we have further news as we take steps to resolve the issue with them.

update 2:22pm edt

We've made a couple of changes to the system to facilitate AOL delivery. Most importantly, we're altering our bounce handling. Previously, all bounces were treated equally, and we gave all bounced addresses 14 days and three failures' grace before clearing them out. Now, "hard" bounces (where the receiving mail server unambiguously tells us that the address we're using is bad) will be immediately moved into the purge queue (the "black spot" status), and will be cleared out next day. Soft bounces (typically (or, perhaps, ideally) transient issues, such as quota problems, connection issues or mail block notifications) will follow the same rules as before: we need three errors and 2 weeks without recovery for an address to be marked for purging. Finally, we're making minor changes to the email footer's wording - you'll see these appear in your next delivery.

update 11:16pm edt

What's apparently happening is that a few bad apples have apparently caused the complaint rate to rise unacceptably. The feedback loop we're using with AOL corroborates with some of the metrics they make available to us, but on other items we have to simply take their word for it and take steps to resolve the issue as they see it. Still, it is what it is and the proverbial something must be done.

At this stage, what we need to do is lower the complaint ratio - which ought to be possible given the policies we use on opting in and confirmation. That in turn will bring back delivery to the levels we expect.

How we get there from here using a couple of strategies. We're going to be much more aggressive about dealing with AOL bounces in particular, and "hard" bounces in general (as described in the earlier update above). This will quickly winnow out those addresses that are either bad or not willing to receive FeedBlitz updates, leaving a much higher quality set of addresses remaining. In addition, we'll be placing text in emails to AOL users to remind them to either unsubscribe (instead of pressing the spam button) or ensure we're properly added to the individual's white list. The unsubscribe text on all our messages is also now also clearer, which may also help reduce complaints.

So you should expect to see a rash of AOL addresses disappearing from your circulation as this process completes in the next day or two. Don't panic. To start with a clean sheet, all active undeliverable AOL addresses have been marked as good, in order to avoid any ambiguity as they're cleaned up. Many are, apparently, old and otherwise no good. These will go away quickly. You may, in fact, be somewhat surprised at how many AOL addresses fail; but after extensive testing today I'm 100% sure that the bounce algorithms are working correctly, and these addresses are being correctly identified as undeliverable. With the chaff removed and clearer instructions for AOL users, things will improve noticeably in the coming days, but it will take a few days to stabilize at best.

Meanwhile, if you are an AOL user, kindly either use the unsubscribe link or add our address to your allowed senders. If your readers are AOL users, kindly remind them (if appropriate) to add us to their whitelists and not to use the dreaded spam button. It's that simple. Anyone wanting more information on how their address got into a FeedBlitz powered update is more than welcome to contact support.



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