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Yahoo! Mail Gamble

Yahoo! Mail Gamble

Yahoo! and AOL have been sold again by Verizon Media to Apollo Global Management; owners of The Venetian resort in Las Vegas. The private equity firm is reported to have paid Verizon $5m for the troubled remnants of the Verizon Media Group (formerly known as Oath).. 

What might this mean for email marketing? 

Many email marketers underestimate the importance of Yahoo! Mail in their databases.  

Litmus’ well-respected consistently records Yahoo! Mail at 5% of email usage, but in most email databases, the real figure will be significantly higher as many with Yahoo! email addresses use other email clients to access their emails – particularly on mobile. The 38% of email opens that Litmus reports on Apple iPhone covers an eclectic mix of ISPs whereby users choose to receive their emails via the native iPhone Mail application. 

Yahoo! Mail is not just for those with a Yahoo! either. AOL is the other major brand that makes up part of the Yahoo! Mail user base. 

There was a time when free AOL CDs represented 50% of all CDs produced worldwide and, whilst most were used as makeshift tea coasters, many were also used to sign up for internet services including email. 

AOL free trial cds

AOL produced an estimated 1bn free trial CDs between 1993 and 2006  

There is no irony lost in recognising the role of one of the biggest junk mail campaigns in history directly contributing to Yahoo! becoming one of the biggest email ISPs. However, for UK-based email marketers, Yahoo!’s reach extends further… 

One of the UK’s most prominent ISPs, Sky, has outsourced their email to Yahoo! for many years. Subscribers with a email address are also Yahoo! Mail customers. Yahoo! also used to power BT email, but this relationship ended some time ago. 


Things that you may not know about Yahoo! Mail 

Yahoo! has, for me, been one of the main innovators in the ISP email space in recent years and offers a range of interesting propositions to email marketers from both a promotional and deliverability perspective. 

PPC-like options for emails to be placed at the top of the inbox for certain senders are available via Yahoo! - View Time Optimisation delivers emails to the top of the inbox on behalf of advertisers by recognising when a user is actively looking at their mailbox. 

Support for markup in HTML also enables email marketers to highlight elements of an email in the inbox list.  

Support for AMP (available in e-shot’s Smart Editor) also makes it possible to add interactivity and other dynamic elements to your email designs. 

On the deliverability side, Yahoo! are one of the main backers of the emerging BIMI (link to blog post) standard – a form of email authentication that builds on DMARC to present a verified logo in the inbox for brands that have set it up. BIMI has been talked about extensively in the past couple of years, but is yet to achieve widespread adoption either from senders or other ISPs. Google announced a trial of BIMI in July 2019, but detail since then has been scarce. According to a recent report by Sparkpost, BIMI authentication is in place for just 0.17% enterprise senders compared to 27% with DMARC – a still worryingly small number in itself. 

DMARC has also been championed by Yahoo! and the majority of DMARC reports processed by Dmarcian come from Yahoo! Mail. 

Yahoo! Mail does not like shared IP addresses. This is often problematic for smaller or infrequent senders who share sending infrastructure through low-cost ESPs. 


Moving from Yahoo! Mail? 

It remains to be seen what will happen with the Yahoo! Mail innovations in the hands of their new owners, but the likelihood is some initiatives will change or perhaps be withdrawn. 

Whilst some Yahoo! Mail users might not like the idea of their personal email being looked after by casino owners, moving personal email providers is very rare, because it is very hard. Your personal email address tends to be associated with 1001 logins and forms a key component of your digital identity. Some services will not let you change the email address associated with your account as it acts as a unique identifier.  

From an email marketing perspective, even if someone did decide to start afresh with a new mailbox provider, they are unlikely to prioritise switching all those old newsletter subscriptions. 

When ISPs make major changes to their services, they tend to take great care to maintain email addresses of old. 

Hotmail was replaced by Outlook almost a decade ago, but many users still use their Hotmail address. Many email marketing databases will actually contain more Hotmail addresses than Outlook ones. 

Apple has moved from to to over the years, but the original addresses are still supported. 

We are creatures of habit… Bad habits when it comes to organising personal email. Ask a group of friends to confess how many unread personal emails they have and you will have two camps; those organised souls who maintain Inbox Zero personally and professionally. You then have ‘normal folk’ who will have unread personal emails in the thousands. 

My own use of personal email is decidedly abnormal due to my job, but I have encountered various characters who have massively exceeded my own extreme Unread count of 30,000! 

inbox with thousands of unread messages

That is not 30,000 unread messages from friends and family I might add. To some extent, the personal label is becoming less relevant with email being used less for personal communication in favour of tools such as WhatsApp. 

The role of the personal inbox has changed fundamentally in recent years. It is more of a hub for marketing and transactional communication from the various organisations who serve or sell to us. This has been pushed further by the pandemic and the panicked switch of many brands to an entirely digital customer relationship.  

Consumer Email Tracker from the DMA

The highly respected Consumer Email Tracker from the DMA showed an even stronger consumer preference for brands to use email to communicate with them.  


Free access to the full report is available here for DMA members: 

I would expect Yahoo! Mail’s new owners to focus on developing the potential revenue streams of their platform and enormous user base – blurring the lines between PPC and email marketing. I would also expect most Yahoo! Mail users to continue using their account… and using it inefficiently! 

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