Metromix’s Role as a Host for Spammers

It looks like the standards are painfully low for Metromix account registration. For example, a comment spammer hitting this site is trying to drive traffic to a profile page on the Chicago Metromix site:

Metromix Viagra Spam

This Metromix user happens to go by the name, “The Lowest Prices on Viagra.”

Metromix Viagra Spam

This account was set up in February, so it’s been live for at least 4 days.

It’s just one example of a larger problem Metromix has with pharmaceutical spam:

Metromix Pharaceutical Spam

Metromix describes itself as “a national network of local entertainment websites that target 21 to 34 year-olds and provides information on where to go and what to do.” That doesn’t sound like a Viagra crowd to me.

Perhaps Metromix should consider a few changes, such as:

1. Moderating accounts that use common spam terms for usernames.
2. nofollow outbound links.
3. Human-review new accounts. Take a quick peek to get a feel for how people are abusing your system.

StarTribune and Yellow Pages Neighborhood Destruction Tag Team

A Deets reader in West St. Paul, Dylan, sent in before and after photos from a neighbor’s vacant home that has been trashed by the StarTribune and our local Yellow Pages companies.

Here’s the before shot:

StarTribune and Yellow Pages Spam

And after Dylan decided to clean up after the StarTribune and local Yellow Pages companies, he had an entire trash bin full of print spam.

StarTribune and Yellow Pages Spam

Dylan breaks down the damage done by our local print spammers:

The biggest culprit appears to be the Star Tribune, which appears to have been dropping off free promotional copies of the Sunday edition for several months running. Yellow Book and Dex are big contributors, too.

Why oh why do companies think it’s smart to drop off more and more unsolicited printed material at a house that’s clearly not picking it up? Are they going to figure this out on their own? I have my doubts.

StarTribune, RH Donnelly, Idearc Media Group, and Yellow Book USA, Inc., you are hurting neighborhoods in the Twin Cities by failing to act like good neighbors.

Yellow Pages is Paying Bloggers to Say Nice Things About Them

You cant make this stuff up.

Yellow Pages company, DexKnows.com, is paying people to write nice things about them on blogs.

Oh, and it gets better. YP industry consultant, Ken Clark then takes the payola and blogs about it on one of his industry blogs, where he claims the paid posts are “actual experiences.”

I think this will be my only yellow pages related post on The Deets today. 🙂

Idearc Media: Yellowpages Unsubscribe FAIL

Idearc LogoLast Sunday, before returning an unsolicited Verizon phone book to Idearc Media in Eagan, I hopped online to unsubscribe. It took some digging, but I eventually found a contact email that seemed appropriate at Idearc. I sent them this email:

My Email to Idearc

Unfortunately, I received an email back from Idearc six days later where Amber decided to pass the buck on helping me get off their distribution list.

Idearc Rejection Email

Notice that Amber is emailing me from an Idearc.com email address, so it would have been nice if she could have forwarded my email to an appropriate department. That didn’t happen.

So I called the number she suggested. No answer and no option for leaving a message.

Then I tried the link she suggested. The form I ended up at has many options. One is for compliments, but that didn’t seem appropriate. Another was for Yellow – White Pages concerns and complaints. That sounds right:

Idearc Contact form: Not for Consumers

But it turns out that the form is designed for advertisers rather than real people and requires business contact information to fill out.

Out of curiosity, I looked up how their stock (IAR) is doing:

Idearc Stock Quote

I don’t know if this is a rule, but generally companies who give higher priority to Investors than Customers on their websites are going to have customer service issues. Funny how that may translate into problems for investors, eh?

Unsubscribing from phone books it proving to be a much more difficult project than I thought. They really want to do everything they can to make you accept their litter.

This post is also available in video form here:

While on the subject of Yellow Pages, I decided to check in with the industry’s crotchetiest lobbyist, Ken Clark, who on a blog called Yellow Pages Environmental Forum (seriously, that’s what he calls it) he explains how kids these days are missing out on valuable advertising by rejecting the use of printed business directories in favor the web:

New Generation Doesn’t Get It

I have long argued that it is far quicker to grab a print Yellow Pages to find what you are looking for than to be clicking and surfing away thru myriads of websites. When you use a book you also get a quick visual indication (subjective as it is) about the viability of the business you are looking at – those print ads aren’t free and if that company has bought a half page ad this is probably not some fly-by-night, Johnny come lately company.

Good luck with that argument, Mr. Clark. I’m sure Gen-Y types will respond positively to a “you don’t get it” argument and wake up to the value of heavy printed directories.

As long as you’re here, Ken, I have three quick questions for you:

1. How can people who don’t want phone books get off phone book distribution lists?

2. Wouldn’t it be better for advertisers to send phone books to only people who want them? It seems like that would substantially decrease the printing and distribution costs advertisers supplement with their ad spends. Correct?

3. Why does someone who’s such a big advocate for Yellow Pages need at least 5 websites?

CatalogChoice: Catalog Unsubscription Service

Hooeyspewer reports that she’s had great success getting off of catalogs using a service called CatalogChoice.

My mailbox is seriously thankful to me for lightening its load. When I initially wrote about signing up with them, they had over a half-million members and its membership had collectively opted out of over 6 million catalogs. Today, the site boasts more than 963,000 members and reports that their membership has canceled over 12,600,000 catalogs. That’s a lot of resources no longer being wasted for marketing that wasn’t working in the first place.

Personally, I’ve had good luck unsubscribing from catalogs from retailer’s websites through their website’s contact form. Some have forms specifically for this purpose, but many just have a contact form where I tell them I’d like to unsubscribe from their mailings. That’s worked for me. In fact, there are days when I receive no mail at all, which never used to happen. Striving for zero-mailbox.

Sadly, one of the catalog retailers who isn’t participating in CatalogChoice (and of the the 4 out of 44 that Hooeyspewer had issues with) is Macy’s. It turns out that Hooeyspewer is no fan of Macy’s and continues to hold a grudge against them for taking away her beloved Chicago Marshall Field’s stores. I’m sure more than a few Dayton’s fans in Minneapolis can relate to that.

Verifying Comment Spam Phrases

Sometimes I come across blog comments that are just a bit too generic. They’re complimentary, but don’t mention anything specific to the topic of the post. When this happens, there is a good chance the comment is a piece of spam.

Here’s an example:

Comment Spam

It’s certainly polite, although it also says nothing related to the topic.

Other hints: Keyword stuffed username, SEO site, and an email address a human would never use (test@)

If that wasn’t enough, I searched for the blog post’s phrase on Google and found this:

Comment Spam Phrase

WOW! That 10-word sentence has been indexed 17,300 times by Google.

Looks like that spammer has had quite a bit of success getting their spammy comment past thousands of bloggers.

citi Commands Me

citi Financial DO NOT DISCARD

Dear citi. Just letting you know that I’ve followed your command: I did not discard your letter.

Could you let me know what to do next?

Should I put this in a safe deposit box?

You mention in the lower-left corner that I should (Jesus cross) “See inside for details”

Does that mean I should open the letter?

I’m so confused. Maybe I should just throw this letter away. Or should I shred it?

But wait! I was specifically commanded NOT to DISCARD this letter. But why?

I eagerly await some form of communication from you on what I should do next.

Sincerely,

Your Direct Mail Commanded, Ed

PS: Outside of this, all I got was a bunch of junk mail today.

Google Cutting Back on Monetizing Domain Kiting

Google finds itself in the middle of quite a few sketchy markets where they both profit from the existence of the markets, yet potentially could also benefit from destroying the markets.

The current example is domain kiting where domain registrars temporarily register (yet avoid paying for) massive quantities of domains, throw up some Google AdSense ads, then collect up to 7 digit checks monthly from Google (after Google’s allotment).

This type of advertising provides no value to customers while generating millions and millions per month for Google. Google has decided to destroy this market by banning AdSense ads from domains registered for less than 5 days. That’s a simple move that has little effect on legitimate publishers.

It’s a tricky situation since advertisers, who’s ads get clicked on generating charges, may or may not have a problem with this. If the ads convert at a reasonable rate, no big deal. But is it really a market worth enabling?

An ongoing example that gets me more worked up is splogs. Why is it so easy for people to set up thousands of junk blogs on blogger, throw AdSense ads on the blogs, ping the crap out of blogs across the web, and actually make money?

This seems like such an easy thing for Google to detect since it generally uses at least two Google services: blogger and AdSense. Shouldn’t they be able to do a better job detecting splogs and suspending the AdSense accounts of sploggers? Or, at least driving down the value of clicks from AdSense ads on splogs to a low enough point that splogs are no longer economically feasible?