Spam Revisited

Quarterly Journal of Electronic Commerce, Vol. 1, No. 4, pp. 305-321, 2002

40 Pages Posted: 18 Jan 2005

See all articles by Sandeep Krishnamurthy

Sandeep Krishnamurthy

University of Washington, Bothell - E-Commerce and Marketing


Even though unsolicited commercial e-mail or Spam continues to be a major problem, very little academic research has focused on it. Notable exceptions include Shiman (1996), Cranor and LaMacchia (1998), Samoriski (1999) and Sheehan and Hoy (1999). The purpose of this paper is to provide a comprehensive overview of the Spam problem and a critical analysis of the solutions. We begin with a definition of Spam. This is followed by an analysis of the pernicious impact of Spam on the major stakeholder groups- consumers, Internet Service Providers, legitimate advertisers, e-commerce firms and employers. Since there is no clean solution to limiting the volume or nature of Spam, a variety of responses to Spam exist. These can be placed into four categories - laissez faire arguments, business-initiated solutions, third-party oversight, consumer education and legislative solutions. For the remainder of the paper, we focus upon one business-initiated solution - permission marketing (Godin 1999). Permission marketing envisages a world where consumers control the promotional messages targeted at them. Consumers provide a firm information about their interests and product preferences. The firm then sends the consumer promotional messages based on this information. We argue that, even though this idea has merit, there has been an inconsistent application of this idea. To support this, we discuss six variants of the original concept of Spam that purport to use permission marketing. Based on this discussion, we end by identifying six key elements that must be a part of every permission marketing campaign if it has to be clearly distinguished from Spam.

Keywords: Spam, Permission Marketing, Relationship Marketing, Consumer, Stakeholder, E-mail, Internet, Web, Privacy, Internet Service Provider, Advertising

Suggested Citation

Krishnamurthy, Sandeep, Spam Revisited. Quarterly Journal of Electronic Commerce, Vol. 1, No. 4, pp. 305-321, 2002, Available at SSRN:

Sandeep Krishnamurthy (Contact Author)

University of Washington, Bothell - E-Commerce and Marketing ( email )

Business Administration Program, UW-1-233
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Bothell, WA Washington State 98011
United States
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