April 10, 2014

Understanding the Drivers of Success

Understanding the Drivers of Success Although generally business is great at Return Path  and by almost any standard in the world has been consistently strong over the years, as everyone internally knows, the second part of 2012 and most of 2013 were not our finest years/quarters.  We had a number of challenges scaling our business, many of which have since been addressed and improved significantly. When I step back and reflect on “what went wrong” in the quarters where we came up short of our own expectations, I can come up with lots of specific answers around finer points of execution, and even a few abstracted ones around our industry, solutions, team, and processes.  But one interesting answer I came up with recently was that the reason we faltered a bit was that we didn’t clearly understand the drivers of success in our business in the 1-2 years prior to things getting tough.  And when I reflect back on our entire 14+ year history, I think that pattern has repeated itself a few times, so I’m going to conclude there’s something to it. What does that mean?  Well, a rising tide — success in your company — papers over a […]


November 18, 2007

In Search of Automated Relevance

In Search of Automated Relevance A bunch of us had a free form meeting last week that started out as an Email Summit focused on protocols and ended up, as Brad put it, with us rolling around in the mud of a much broader and amorphous Messaging Summit.  The participants (and some of their posts on the subject) in addition to me were Fred Wilson (pre, post), Brad Feld,  Phil Hollows, Tom Evslin (pre, post), and Jeff Pulver (pre, post).  And the discussion to some extent was inspired by and commented on Saul Hansell’s article in the New York Times […]


July 4, 2007

The Acquisition (a parody of a parody)

The Acquisition (a parody of a parody) I just spent a great 4th of July with my brother Michael, one of the finer and funnier people I know.  Among other things, we treated ourselves to about the 18th viewing of Mel Brooks’ History of the World, Part I on DVD. One of our favorite moments in the movie is the Broadway musical version of “The Inquisition” (lyrics, download MP3).  Since both of us work in the online marketing industry (Michael is a marketing manager at search agency Did-It), Michael came up with the brilliant idea of a parody of a […]


February 15, 2007

Stuck in the Middle

Stuck in the Middle I was trying to explain the current state of Return Path’ Postmaster Network online advertising business (email lists, lead gen, RSS) to someone from outside the industry the other day, when it occurred to me that many online marketing vehicles are still split between running on the offline paradigm and running on the online paradigm.  I don’t have a lot of detailed stats on all of this at my fingertips, but bear with my observations. To me, the offline paradigm has always been characterized by big agency buys, driven by thematic/brand oriented creative campaigns that cost […]


May 8, 2006

So, Where’d They Go?

So, Where’d They Go? As we’ve reported a couple times in the past, one of our interesting nuggets at Return Path is a wealth of “ISP switching data” that comes from our very large, active, self-reported Email Change of Address, or ECOA, service (consumer sign-up; client info). I noted the article floating around last week that AOL lost about 1 million subscribers last quarter, the lion’s share in the U.S., of course. So, where’d they all go? Well, according to our ECOA data, which may of course be somewhat skewed by our data sources (but has data from well over […]


February 3, 2006

Why Email Stamps Are a Bad Idea

Why Email Stamps Are a Bad Idea (also posted on the Return Path blog) Rich Gingras, CEO of Goodmail is an incredibly smart and stand-up professional.  I’ve always liked him personally and had a tremendous amount of respect for him.  However, the introduction of the email stamp model by Goodmail is a radical departure from the current email ecosystem, and while I’m all for change and believe the spam problem is still real, I don’t think stamps are the answer.  Rich has laid out some of his arguments here in the DMNews blog, so I’ll respond to those arguments as […]


January 25, 2006

Buying Back Your Own Left Leg

Buying Back Your Own Left Leg There has been much written about the spectacular sale of Pixar to Disney for $7.4 billion this week.  The fact that Steve Jobs is now Disney’s largest individual shareholder is amazing news on many levels.  Fred has a great posting on this today from the investor perspective. Another angle that I find interesting about this transaction is that it reminds me to some extent of Yahoo’s purchase of Overture a couple years back.  Yahoo OWNED the search business.  For years.  Invented it.  Synonymous with it.  Then they let others lap them they became more […]


April 21, 2005

Gmail, I Don’t Get It, Part III

Gmail, I Don’t Get It, Part III This is the third in a somewhat drawn-out series of postings on Gmail featuring some interesting data from Return Path’s Email Change of Address service, which captures self-reported address change data from nearly 1 million consumers every month. The first posting, back when Gmail launched nearly a year ago, was that I didn’t understand the fuss.  This is even more true now that Yahoo is in a “free storage” war with Google. The second, in November, had some change of address stats reporting that the numbers of people joining Gmail was tiny relative […]


November 9, 2004

Gmail – I Don’t Get It, Part II

Gmail – I Don’t Get It, Part II Back in June, I blogged about Google’s new Gmail service, how I didn’t understand the fuss, and how its features would ultimately be replicated and true usership stalled at a couple million.  I stand by those assertions (just look at what Yahoo, Hotmail, and Lookout have done to the landscape since then), but my company Return Path published some data today that’s interesting on this topic. We run the largest Email Forwarding and Email Change of Address service around, so our data on email switching is pretty solid — we’ve had about […]


October 10, 2004

It’s Up There With Air and Water Now

It’s Up There With Air and Water Now A study on “web withdrawl” conducted by Yahoo and OMD confirmed that most people are now so accustomed to using the web that they have problems when internet access is taken away from them. Nothing too earthshattering, but it’s an interesting quick read. My favorite part: one person reported that he even missed getting spam. Now THAT’S a sign that it’s time to get outside and enjoy some fresh air.


August 22, 2004

New Media Deal

Americans have long operated under an unwritten deal with media companies (for our purposes here, let’s call this the Old Media Deal). The Old Media Deal is simple: we hate advertising, but we are willing to put up with an amazing amount of it in exchange for free or cheap content, and occasionally one of those ads slips through to the recesses of our brain and influences us in some way that old school marketers who trade in non-addressable media can only dream of. Think about it: – 30 minutes of Friends has 8 minutes of commercials (10 in syndication!) […]