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article imageGmail is marking newsletters as spam — and users are annoyed

By James Walker     Jul 10, 2017 in Technology
Gmail is reportedly marking email newsletters that users have subscribed to as spam. Some distributors of email campaigns have seen their open rates plummet in recent weeks. Google hasn't publicly announced any changes or acknowledged the complaints.
The problem came to light in a post on marketing site Detailed.com last week. Detailed founder Glen Allsopp claimed the open rate on his long-established email newsletter dropped by a half "overnight." A few days later, regular subscribers started contacting him to say they'd found his emails in their spam folder.
In the absence of any obvious change that could explain the issue, Allsopp began to network with other email list curators. He discovered several other people have faced similar issues with Gmail in the past couple of months. In a series of reports published on Twitter, admins reported dramatic decreases in their open rate that seem to range from around 20% up to as high as 50%. Curiously, others said they haven't noticed anything out of the ordinary.
Emails within conversations are being marked as spam
Emails within conversations are being marked as spam
Glen Allsopp / Detailed.com
The number of people reading any email list will fluctuate over time. Not everyone reads every issue and some users could lose interest in the content. However, the plummeting open rate being reported by affected list owners suggests something else is at play here. The lack of any open rate issues with other email providers, such as Outlook or Yahoo, strongly implies something has changed internally at Gmail.
Allsopp said he's been contacted by people who have been subscribed to his list for years. They found his emails suddenly started being directed to their spam folder, despite having been receiving and reading them without any issues before.
Several email newsletter subscribers raised the alarm
Several email newsletter subscribers raised the alarm
Glen Allsopp / Detailed.com
The problem's even affecting people who have replied directly to Allsopp's emails, starting a conversation with him. This should be enough indication that the sender probably isn't a spammer. Gmail's apparently not taking the hint, instead marking messages in the middle of conversations as spam.
Google hasn't commented on any of the reported cases. It's unclear whether the company is even aware of the frustrations email list admins are experiencing. Allsopp theorised that the issues could be related to Gmail's recently-added "sensitive information" warning. He speculated with other affected users that Google's new anti-spam tools might be "too effective."
The new warning suspected of causing the issues
The new warning suspected of causing the issues
Glen Allsopp / Detailed.com
"Whatever filters are now in place have been potentially 'tweaked' too far that genuine emails, to people who genuinely wish to receive them, are no longer being delivered," wrote Allsopp. "I think there are enough examples of this suddenly happening to other people that Google has changed something on their side, and it would be great to get their attention if that's the case," he added.
With no way of disabling the suspect feature or confirming if it's the cause, the email admins are currently powerless to act. The open rates haven't yet recovered either, signalling that whatever has changed probably isn't just a short-term fluke. In all of the examples Allsopp collated, the engagement issues started in the past few weeks and only manifest themselves in Gmail inboxes.
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