AOL Ends Report Card Program

Christine Borgia from AOL announced this week that the long-standing Report Card program has come to an end.  For those of us who have been in the email marketing world for any period of time, we know this marks the end of an era.  I go way back with AOL from my previous role running email operations at Travelocity.  I started back at the dawn of “email time” in 1999.  I had the privilege of sending AOL Travel email, in addition to my regular Travelocity mail.  This gave me some insider type access to the Postmaster Team at AOL.  I won’t tell you that everything was always smooth.  In fact, I had a pretty rocky year, one that I’ve tried to delete from my memory banks.  Looking back, that was when the discipline of deliverability was born.  AOL was way ahead of the curve in the implementation of the Report Card program.  If you aren’t familiar with the Report Card, here’s a sample:

You are receiving this message via AOL’s automated “Report Card” process because our available data indicate that in the last 24 hours your domain’s mail stream has exceeded an inbox complaint rate of 0.30%.  This email is only an indication that your domain’s mail stream has exceeded a pre-defined complaint threshold; it is not necessarily indicative of a spam problem. We send a report card to every domain that exceeds this threshold, regardless of what type of mail is sent. We hope that it may be useful to help identify potential issues. For additional information please visit our Postmaster website, where one can find a more detailed explanation of how the Report Card system works, AOL’s technical requirements for sending email to us, AOL’s best practices guidelines for bulk-mailers, and more.

This was really great stuff!  Imagine an ISP sending you an email each day warning you that you had slipped into the danger zone.  You didn’t have to build any reports, aggregate any data, or haggle over “hanging spams!”  This kind of service just isn’t around anymore, and I fear we took it for granted.  It means we’re back to “new school” techniques with AOL.  Their feedback loop program is top-notch and has always been the leader in FBL technology.  (You are signed up and watching your FBL complaints/statistics…aren’t you?  Of course you are, because we all know that complaints are the bellwether statistic for email marketers.)

Goodbye, AOL Report Card.  I will miss you.  Actually, I will miss those days from long ago when a day without a Report Card meant we had aced our promotion.  We were good enough, smart enough, and AOL liked us!!

– Kevin Senne, Director, Deliverability & Social Networking, Premiere Global Services, Inc.