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AT&T spams Webmasters

About 1,000 Webmasters are the target of a spam campaign by AT&T to drum up interest in its PocketNet service.

AT&T reached out and touched Webmasters today with an unsolicited promotional email message.

Webmasters of sites that relate to mobile communications received an email message this morning hyping the release of AT&T's new wireless service, PocketNet.

Some of the recipients of the PocketNet email message offered a swift and unhappy response to the unsolicited promotion.

"I want to strongly protest AT&T's use of unsolicited junk email to promote their services," wrote one reader who received the email message. "Spam from AT&T is no better, and no less a waste of our time, than being 'targeted' for the latest wonder cure, porno site, or get-rich-quick scam."

Despite the anger that spam engenders from those who receive it, many organizations are still lured by its efficiency and economy as a promotional tool. AT&T is not the only organization that has had its use of unsolicited email backfire on them.

Last month, a group of antispammers threatened to boycott Amazon.com in response to the mass email the online bookseller sends to its customers. Online auctioneer Onsale also came under fire in December for sending out unsolicited email to its competitor's clientele. And last year, the Software Publishers Association sent an antipiracy notice to more than 300,000 system administrators, drawing the ire of many recipients.

According to Brad Stevens, director of marketing for PocketNet, the email was sent to targeted potential PocketNet customers, and was not sent out randomly. "We put together a targeted list of users who we thought would be interested in the product," Stevens said.

The email was distributed by HyperConnect, an online direct marketer that maintains a database of more than 2,000 names for direct mailing.

Stevens estimates that the email was sent to no more than 1,000 Webmasters, but conceded that it may have found its way into other people's email addresses as well. "When you compile lists like that, you may get people by mistake," he said.

AT&T says this is the first such promotional email that it has sent, and it will reconsider sending out more if it finds a generally negative response.

"We will look at what kind of response we get, and what kind of reaction we get," Stevens said. "We don't want to irritate anybody."