FC: Note to journalists: Warning about PressBlaster spam

From: Declan McCullagh (declanat_private)
Date: Sun Feb 03 2002 - 19:04:13 PST

  • Next message: Declan McCullagh: "FC: Int'v with Microsoft's Scott Charney on benefits of key escrow"

    [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" <robinat_private>
    To: Declan McCullagh <declanat_private>
    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 
    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 
    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 
    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, salesat_private and pbat_private 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
    "[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 salesat_private and 
    pbat_private, 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
    POLITECH -- Declan McCullagh's politics and technology mailing list
    You may redistribute this message freely if you include this notice.
    Declan McCullagh's photographs are at http://www.mccullagh.org/
    To subscribe to Politech: http://www.politechbot.com/info/subscribe.html
    This message is archived at http://www.politechbot.com/
    Events: Congreso Nacional de Periodismo Digital in Huesca, Spain from
    Jan. 17-18 (http://www.congresoperiodismo.com) and the Second
    International Conference on Web-Management in Diplomacy in Malta from
    Feb. 1-3. (http://www.diplomacy.edu/Web/conference2/)

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Sun Feb 03 2002 - 19:30:11 PST