Are you an email subscriber to any one of VNU's newsletters or
publications, such as Outdoor Retailer, SGB, or Health & Fitness
Business? If so, are you aware that VNU may be renting your email to
outside vendors and partners? SNEWSÂ® certainly wasn't, and many of you
we spoke with at this month's Outdoor Retailer Winter Market in Anaheim
SNEWSÂ® first became aware that VNU was sharing subscriber emails with
outside vendors when we received a junk email on Dec. 18 with the
subject line reading, "$1 Billion Lost to Invalid Claims!" The email
featuring Flash technology, which took forever to download on one slow
SNEWSÂ® land line, was from Oracle Trade Management -- click here to view a screen shot of the email
-- and carried the following disclaimer at the bottom: "This message is
brought to you as a valued subscriber to VNU Business Publications,
USA. Please note, VNU Business Publications, USA is not affiliated with
this offer." There was a link to remove your name from the list, but
why on earth did we receive this aggravating spam in the first place?
We began asking questions -- emailing VNU management on Dec. 19 -- and
received the following email response on Dec. 21 from Francie Leventhal
of VNU eMedia: "VNU does rent our opted-in email subscriber names.
These names come from both our online products that people subscribe to
and print publication subscriptions for which email addresses are
"We then send an email out to every email address that we have
informing the user that from time to time we will be sending valuable
business messages from our preferred partners, and if the user does not
want to receive such emails, she/he should click on the link at the
bottom of the email to be removed from this list."
We found the last statement most interesting because SNEWSÂ® had never
received up to this date any notice from our opt-in email registrations
with VNU to any of our emails that were registered. A couple of days
later -- on Dec. 24 -- what landed in one of our inboxes was indeed
such an announcement, totally out-of-the-blue and not on the heels of
any registration. Coincidence? You be the judge. That email informed us
that from time to time VNU Business Media would like to send us
information about "valuable new services, products and special offers
from our preferred business partners that we feel will be of interest
to you." In the email, VNU provided a means -- thankfully -- to opt out
of the list. We did.
We did a bit of checking with other companies who are also opt-in
subscribers to VNU publications, and none had any recollection of ever
receiving a notification of possible sharing of emails with non-VNU
companies with the ability to opt-out.
Of course, it is possible we all simply overlooked the emails when they
initially came, so, one member of the SNEWSÂ® team registered again for
various VNU publications, using alternate emails and names that weren't
in the system. That was Dec. 22, and we have yet to receive any email
notification that our emails may be shared and we certainly were given
no indication of that possibility during the registration process.
Another team member registered a number of days later, also using
alternate emails not in the system -- also without any follow-up
notifications of potential email sharing.
Leventhal went on to state in her email to us that, "Subscriber
information is not shared with anyone else, we handle the email
mailings through our 3rd party list manager, ePost Direct, who in turn
following link: http://vnuemedia.com/privacy.html."
December, at the same time SNEWSÂ® had begun asking questions. Yet
Of course, SNEWSÂ® will try to make it easy for you. If you wish to be
sure your email is removed from VNU's list provided to partners and
other services, you can contact them by email at: email@example.com or by writing them at VNU eMedia, Inc., 770 Broadway, 6th Floor, New York, NY 10003.
Sharing emails without a subscriber's clear knowledge is simply bad
practice and feels quite wrong to us. SNEWSÂ®' policy regarding our
subscriber emails and information is that it is secret. Period! We will
never sell, share, or otherwise reveal information about our
subscribers, at any time, to any vendor, or to any service provider.
As a result of the VNU-supported SPAM we received, we took a quick look
at other magazines and groups. Backpacker and other Rodale pubs gets
the two-thumbs-up salute for providing an easy means for subscribers to
opt out of having their emails shared with a simple box to select
during the registration process -- simple, clean, obvious, and easy.
Outside magazine requires you to read a document that's nearly as long
and convoluted as War and Peace (and we're still trying to finish that
novel from college days), but at least they suggest clearly during the
registration process that you read it. Fitness Management, a magazine
for health club and fitness professionals, offers no such choices, nor
follows up with any email notification. Neither does another fitness
club association, IHRSA, when someone signs up for its e-newsletter.
Canoe & Kayak appears to have a means to opt out of having an email
shared, but there are multiple boxes to check and it really isn't clear
what selecting or de-selecting boxes will do.
SNEWSÂ® firmly believes that all publications and companies that solicit
customer emails for business use or newsletters should make it as easy
as possible for the subscriber to opt out of having his or her email
shared. We applaud Backpacker and encourage others to follow their lead
-- especially VNU -- by providing a simple box to select during the
subscription process. Anything less than that is taking advantage of a
customer's trust. And that's just bad practice and bad business.