bugglesSo video may have killed the radio star, as Buggles once sang back in 1979 – but is telephone cold calling and email spam now killing direct marketing? I ask because over the past six months I’ve noticed a huge increase in the number of people signing up for the Insider newsletter using anonymous/generic Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo email accounts.

Now, we’ve always had a few of these coming in from students and people between jobs but never on this scale. Obviously we’d like to think the recent surge is because the Insider has developed a samizdat-type notoriety and people don’t want their employers to know they are receiving it but… let’s be real. So anyway, as I recognised some of the names signing up via Gmail etc and knowing they were real people with real jobs in real law firms, I contacted them to ask why they were not using their corporate email accounts.

The answer is to avoid spam. There concern is that email distribution lists* inevitably get sold or some how fall into the hands of direct marketing organisations, IT vendors, event promoters etc etc and that if they are listed as Bill.Bloke@BigRichLawyers.com they will be opening the doors to an inbox full of spam. However if they merely appear on a mailing list as bblo97@yahoo.com, potential spammers are not going to bother with someone who may prove to be a penniless law student in Uzbekistan.

And, it is not just email. We’re hearing from law firm and legal department heads of IT that telesales cold calling is now also reaching epidemic proportions. In some instances, the targets of these calls have secretaries or assistants to field these calls however we know a number of IT directors now use the excuse of “Oh sorry, I just gave away my last business card” whenever they are cornered by sales reps. While another has gone to the extreme of setting up a special phone number on the business cards she gives to software vendors: it goes straight to a voicemail system that is never checked.

Maybe the time has come for legal IT vendors to stop using 20th century direct marketing methods in the 21st century?

* We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: the Insider does not sell, loan or exchange its subscribers’ contact details to anyone.