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Note to journalists: Warning about PressBlaster spam



[Like other news organizations, Wired News has an address we use to
receive tips from readers. I just checked, and yep, we're getting
PressBlaster spew. Thanks, Robin, for sending this along. --Declan]

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Sat, 02 Feb 2002 20:26:43 -0500
From: "Robin (Roblimo) Miller" <robin@roblimo.com>
To: Declan McCullagh <declan@well.com>
Subject: for journalists who read politech...

Fighting Against PressBlaster PR Spam

Journalists with email addresses published on the WWW are getting hit 
with an increasing amount of PR spam generated by a program called 
"PressBlaster." You can tell a Pressblaster release because it has the 
following disclaimer at the bottom:

"This Press Release is being sent to a handful of targeted
media contacts who we felt were most appropriate to receive
it. If you would like us to remove your email address from our
list of occasional press releases, simply reply with the word
'remove' in the subject line. You will never again receive a
press release from us."

Since most publications get their correspondence through email aliases 
like "editors@" or "pr@," a "remove" reply from "EddieEditor@" will not 
result in a removal. And even if it did, it would only stop spam from 
one PressBlaster user, not from hundreds -- possibly thousands -- of 
other PressBlaster customers.

PressBlaster (http://www.pressblaster.net/) is powerfully attractive to 
small entrepreneurs with limited promotion budgets. Buy this software, 
the pitch goes, and you can write your own press releases and send out 
thousands of copies in just a few minutes. Spend less than $200, once, 
and you won't need to hire an expensive PR professional, ever. One of 
the screenshots in their little online "tour" of the program's features 
shows contact information for a major TV newsmagazine show. Imagine your 
business featured on 20/20, this seems to imply. Wouldn't that be great?

Buried in the FAQs is a reminder that you shouldn't send every press 
release to everyone. Specifically:

"If you just opened up a new Apple Farm in Kentucky, it would not be 
appropriate to announce this to an entertainment editor in New York. If 
you properly target your announcements to a targeted media base you run 
a much better chance of getting mentioned in the press. Remember, 
PressBlaster contains over 24,000 media contacts, so if you mail your 
release to just 50, and if just one major newspaper or magazine picks it 
up, the potential audience that see's [sic] your story could be in the 
millions!"

But on the site's main page, in large type, it says, "Now you can send 
out thousands of your own Press Releases in just a few minutes!"

Which statement do you think is more likely to be noticed by a 
home-business hopeful who doesn't know much about publicity -- or the 
Internet?

The PressBlaster home page also opens a popup window that advertises:

- Submit Unlimited Ads to over 400,000 Sites with ONE click!

- One Form, One Click, Your Ad on the top 250 FREE Classified Sites!

- Instantly Submit your FREE Ads to over 500 Message Boards--with ONE click!

-  $2.00 Ads!! Place Thousands of Ads for only $2 Bucks! (Hot!)

I hope Slashdot and our other OSDN sites aren't among those "500 message 
boards." If you run message boards, I hope, for your sake, that yours 
aren't included either. Note that targeting is not mentioned; apparently 
these programs --  which are sold by PressBlaster's publisher -- are 
pure, unvarnished spamware. It is no wonder many PressBlaster users 
believe the program *they* bought is intended to be used in a similar 
manner.

The PressBlaster site has a form at 
http://www.pressblaster.net/pressmember.html where press people can 
supposedly remove themselves from the PressBlaster database. I used this 
form, but filling it out has not kept me from getting PressBlaster spam. 
Even if this form really works, unlike most spammers' "remove" 
utilities, PressBlaster is sold on CDs, so copies already distributed 
still contain our publications' email aliases and can still be used by 
PR spammers to harass us.

But all is not lost. Here are two simple steps you can take to protect 
yourself (and others) against PressBlaster:

1) Use all or part of the "This Press Release is being sent to a handful 
of targeted media contacts" disclaimer to trigger your email filters and 
send all PressBlaster spam to its own email folder. This is easy to do 
in most Linux email programs, and I assume Windows and Mac users also 
have ways to do it.

2) When you have a moment, go to your "PressBlaster Spam" folder and 
forward everything in it to PressBlaster's two published email 
addresses, sales@pressblaster.net and pb@pressblaster.net. Include full 
headers. In at least one instance, PressBlasters Director Joe Bellshaw 
has revoked a user's license because she used the product incorrectly. 
Bellshaw's email to the user included the following paragraphs 
(recipient's name removed):

"You have no right to use this tool to spam the press.

"Obviously you have no clue of what a press release is, how to write one,
and how to target the appropriate media contacts.

"The press and media industry is not there to read your junk email. They
have much more important things to do like report on newsworthy stories.
Getting newsworthy stories to the appropriate media conact is what
pressblaster is all about.

"Your junk email is NOT newsworthy and is NOT appreciated by me or anyone
else. In my 6 years of providing a quality piece of software, you have
caused more grief , upset, and harm than anyone in my entire online
career.

"[Licensee name], I am hereby revoking your user license, effective
immediately, and will be refunding your purchase price in full. You are
hereby advised to remove the software immediately from your computer.
Please confirm this has been done."

Since all PressBlaster releases I have received have been from people 
who don't know "how to target the appropriate media contacts," if we all 
forward all PressBlaster email we get to sales@pressblaster.net and 
pb@pressblaster.net, perhaps Mr. Bellshaw will revoke most of his users' 
licenses and PressBlaster spam will stop.

It's worth a try, anyway. :)

- Robin "Roblimo" Miller
- editor and reporter,
- Slashdot
- NewsForge
- Linux.com





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