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[T4] Newsletters - Why doesn't Tendenci record email opens?

When you send a newsletter through Tendenci, it does not report how many people read that newsletter. This is by design.

The main reason we do NOT track email opens in Tendenci is because we do not like it when people snoop on us. There it is.

The logical reasons to not track email opens (also the reasons to explain to your boss):

  1. Bad data. Bad data is worse than no data. You can't accurately record email opens because recording email opens is done typically two ways neither of which is accurate.
    1. Request the mail server to send a receipt. Most mail servers have this turned off as a spam deterrent.
    2. Hidden graphic in the email. Sometimes called a "web bug". This is the most common method of recording email opens.
  2. Web bugs (see 1.2 above) increase the email spam score for an email reducing actual deliveries.
  3. Web bugs don't work on services that cache graphics like AOL unless you use a separate image for each user. That is technically possible but still doesn't work on text email readers like a Blackberry. (So your business users show 100% not read! Probably not what you wanted.)
  4. No method of correction – by this I mean you can’t estimate how many false opens you get so you can’t do an increase of 50% or similar. So there is no rule-of-thumb correction for your bad data. See number 1 above.

  5. Tracking URLs in email are more spammy and more likely to trigger spam filters reducing delivery rates. So the more you try to track the LESS likely they will actually read it.

  6. Emails have a way of being reposted as content. So you post an email newsletter as an article so folks can access it later. Therefore ALL links in that article are tracking, which leads to spiders following the links which again corrupts your data. And removes link love from the targets because page rank is not transferred through tracking URLs
  7. Tracking urls are ugly. We believe people are less likely to click ugly urls.

This leads to the famous Disraeli quote “there are lies, damn lies, and statistics.”

When speaking to groups I ask "how many people want to know how many people read their newsletter?" and 50 to 60% of the room will say YES. Then I ask "how many people like it when other people record when they open an email or not?" and 100% of the room will say NO. In other words, nobody likes it when people record their email opens.

So what is a webmaster to do to improve the newsletter? Use landing pages and look at variances in daily article reads before the newsletter, the day of, and the day after. Yes this is more work but it IS accurate and does not invade anyone's privacy.

I realize reasonable people can disagree on this. If you absolutely must try to collect data, accurate or not, you can export the usergroup and use a third party email provider like:

  1. http://www.mailchimp.com/
  2. http://email.exacttarget.com
  3. http://www.constantcontact.com
  4. Microsoft bCentral