“I believe ETR’s response to the question about e-mail list brokers was misguided. Yes, one may rent an e-mail list. It is, however, to the best of my knowledge, a federal crime to use such a list. Thus, it is money down the drain. No rented list can pass the permission test.”


Livermore, CA

Dear Orv,

Taking control of an e-mail list and sending messages through it is called spam. Yes, that is a federal crime… and we would never advise anyone to do that.

What has been and remains best e-mail practice is e-mail list rental. This is when you make a deal with the owner of an e-mail list for a specific number of mailings (one or more). The list owner will send out your sales message to his list on your behalf. In exchange, he’ll get a percentage of the profits from sales of your product to his subscribers, or he’ll get a chance to advertise to your e-mail list.

If a list owner has his list on the “market,” you can go through a list broker to get to the list manager. Or you can directly approach the list manager. Either way, the list owner sends the e-mail to his list. You don’t get direct access to it. If we were to rent the USA Today e-mail list, for example, USA Today would not send us a list of their e-mail addresses. We would send them our sales message, and they would send it to their subscribers through their server.

– MaryEllen Tribby, ETR’s CEO and Publisher

[Ed. Note: Send your questions to AskETR@ETRFeedback.com. Include your full name, your hometown and state, and the ETR team may answer you in an upcoming issue.]

Mary Ellen Tribby

MaryEllen Tribby is a business consultant and coach to entrepreneurs in the information publishing and digital marketing arena. She led Early to Rise from May 2006 to January 2010 as Publisher & CEO. She has also served as President of Weiss Research, managing divisions of Forbes, Globe Communications, Times Mirror Magazines and Crain’s New York Business. She currently heads up The CEO's Edge and WorkingMomsOnly.com.