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How to manage in-box 'bacon'

'Bacon' describes the mass e-mail you want instead of the spam you don't.

By Staff writer / June 13, 2011

In the past four years, the amount of 'bacon' has doubled. Retailers now send each customer an average of 152 messages yearly.

Bob Staake

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Science has solved spam. Once the scourge of in-boxes everywhere, junk e-mail now sets off automatic traps that identify, quarantine, and eliminate spam with near perfect accuracy. So why do in-boxes still feel so cluttered?

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"We got to this point in our e-mail where the spam filter is doing its job, yet our in-boxes are still filled," says Jamie Siminoff, a serial Web entrepreneur in Santa Monica, Calif.

For Mr. Siminoff, the spam has been replaced with "bacon."

Bacon describes the gray area between the personal e-mail you want and the spam you don't. It's newsletters, coupons, and notifications – commercial e-mail that you probably signed up for but now receive far too often.

"Bacon is all of your Facebook notifications or bank e-mails saying that a bill is due," says Tommy Vallier, a social media consultant and one of the people that coined the term at a Pittsburgh technology conference in 2007. "We came up with the word just as bacon really started to become a problem."

That year, retailers sent an average of 85 e-mails to each of their subscribers. Since then, the number has nearly doubled to 152 messages, according to the marketing firms Responsys and Sendito.

Web watchers expect that this outsized helping of bacon will continue to pile up. Shipping an e-mail costs 1/100th of a cent, 1/2000th the cost of bulk postage rates. And according to Brightwave Marketing, on average, every dollar spent on bacon brings in $43.52 in sales. No wonder Forrester Research expects e-mail marketing budgets to climb by a third to $2 billion in 2014.

Bacon may be good business, but Mr. Vallier says it also drags on his productivity. So he devised a few tricks to keep his bacon consumption under control.

"The biggest thing that I recommend to people is filters, filters, filters," he says. Most modern e-mail clients, such as Gmail or Outlook, can automatically flag bacon – marking a message with a colored tag, placing the letter immediately into organized folders, or deleting it on sight.

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