Many people mistake marketing newsletters as “spam” despite them having joined a site and agreeing to receive email communications. In part online marketeers are responsible for this – some sites do bombard their mailing lists daily, whilst others happily flog details to anyone and everyone without thought.

The media also play a part by portraying spam as everything other than an email from your chums. However, the biggest culprits are the endless stream of drivel that comes in offering people access to bigger appendages, drugs to keep said appendages working, and sexy foreign girls who want a man with big drug fueled appendages in exchange for your bank account details.

McAfee know what spam is and to demonstrate their vast knowledge of the subject they’ve been running the SPAM Experiment where “participants will keep an on online diary of their experiences and update it daily. Their experience will show the real effects of spam”. Spam they say is “junk email”.

The BBC know what spam is too! Back in 2003 they reported about how “Unsolicited e-mails now infuriatingly clutter many inboxes, just as paper junk mail buried many a front door mat.”

So what does unsolicited mean… well according to Answers.com it means “Not looked for or requested“.

So if someone clicks on a link to “join” a website that they’ve signed up for – what has that got to do with spam?

Well according to a video report from The BBC, reporting on the project by McAfee, one of the UK’s well known names in affiliate marketing is being a naughty boy and spamming people – that’s if you believe you get spam by signing up for a site and then activating an account agreeing to receive a newsletter from them. You can find out more at Affiliate Marketing Blog.

The thing is The BBC have probably managed to pick the one site where the owner, Supercod, is able to drill down, show the activity of the user in the video and demonstrate what complete and utter tosh the report is! Let’s hope they issue a groveling apology as the report is nothing short of a disgrace.

And disgrace is something which could be applied to the whole SPAM Experiment. For something to be scientific it requires control and regulation in order for the end results to be deemed meaningful. The site has a blog by the UK participants and the daily reports make very interesting reading.

The bloggers claim they went looking for spam by posting their email addresses on forums, signing up for sites and even replying to genuine spam in order to see what happens. But isn’t spam “unsolicited” and “not looked for or requested”?

For this to be an acceptable scientific experiment one person should be doing one thing (e.g. registering on Site X) and using a specific email address to do it – so it can be tracked when “sold on”. By allowing the guinea pigs free rein to do as they please, McAfee’s experiment lacks conclusive scientific substance!

This makes the whole experiment as fishy as The BBC’s spam report that highlights Supercod’s site!

The BBC and McAfee should be educating internet users about spam, but they need to make sure people learn the difference between unsolicited email and requested newsletters – the TV clip fails to do that and the experiment and journalism behind it is nothing short of incredibly poor.