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07 Dec 2008
Coreg, short for co-registration, is a popular but problematic method for building mailing lists. When you sign up for mail from someone, if there's a box asking if you'd like Valuable Offers from Our Treasured Marketing Partners, that's coreg. They sell your address to the TMPs who do, well, something with it. In some cases coreg is a sideline, but there are companies that do nothing but coreg, with online sweepstakes and other cheap trinkets as come-ons to get people to sign up.
Coreg has earned a dreadful reputation. The classic example is "Nadine", an elderly woman who mistyped her address on a sweepstakes site, instead typing an address at an ISP in Texas which collected all of the mail she got and tracked its passage from one mailer to another. He stopped counting last year at upwards of 90,000 messages, everything from political opinion surveys to horse porn.
So a friend asked, is it possible to do coreg that doesn't stink?
After a variety of more complex suggestions, I offered a simple criterion: if it's one opt-in, it's one opt-out. That is, if I signed up in one place, and I later decide that I don't like all the mail from Our TMPs, I want to unsub once and have it all stop.
One obvious way to do this is the Lifescript model, where the original acquirer keeps the addresses and does all the mailing on behalf of other companies that pay them to do so, although I would argue that's not coreg in the sense the industry understands it.
The other obvious way is to send the opt outs through the same channels as the opt ins, so each TMP can manage its own lists. (The opt-out link in each message would point back to the original acquirer, which would then notify all the TMPs to whom it had passed the address.)
My impression was that nobody would seriously expect that to work, asked around, and heard no disagreements.
What does that say about the competence and honesty of the coreg business? Should it even be legal?
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