Here is a quick summary of some of the more important and/or interesting news stories on email marketing to cross the transom this week:

We totally know what big data is. Just ask us. (via Marketing Charts)
By now we have all heard of big data (which, curiously, many people have stopped capitalizing), and so begins the stage where marketers exaggerate their adoption of it, just as they did with mobile, social media and even email back in the day. This survey is an excellent example. 40% of mid-level and executive-level marketers say they have a “specific strategy for handling the challenges of big data,” even though in a similar survey less than half a year ago 42% had no real idea of what big data was. I include this survey in The Email Week That Was not because I think everyone needs to have a big data strategy to keep up with these 40% who claim to already, but to illustrate that a lot of what passes for benchmarks is not very reliable. Instead of seeing what percentage of our colleagues and competitors have adopted a new technology, I think we are better off looking at what our customers need and then setting a course.

Spam is ecommerce’s untold case study. (via NPR)
This may be the most fascinating email story since the look inside the Obama Campaign’s email operations. It turns out that all that prescription drug spam in your junk folder offering great prices on Viagra and other pharmaceuticals are part of an enormous – and legitimate – affiliate marketing ecommerce operation. Researchers placed over 800 orders from various unsolicited emails and in all but one instance received what they ordered. The selling sites all operate in the black market and contract spammers to market on their behalf, offering 30% – 40% commissions for each sale. With fees like that, it’s no wonder pharma spam accounts for 2 out of every 3 junk messages, and that over a trillion spam messages are sent every month. If this politics thing doesn’t work out, the Obama email team could make a killing selling Cialis out of a warehouse in Turkey.

When did targeting and personalization become as exciting as social media? (via Econsultancy)
If you click on that link you’ll see that it’s to a new study where marketers cite Mobile Optimization as the most exciting marketing opportunity of 2013. OK, we knew that already. What is more interesting in this study is what follows hot on the heels of Mobile Optimization that 43% of marketers cited – Targeting and Personalization at 35%. Social Engagement also came in at 35%, down sharply from 54% last year. And Targeting and Personalization is essentially up even more sharply, from 0%. It wasn’t even considered “exciting” enough to make last year’s survey. Why the sudden change of fortune between the two? In a word – ROI. Email’s star is on the rise again after a successful holiday season that saw email drive traffic and sales records on Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Cyber Week and the rest of the holiday season. Marketers put a lot of energy into social in 2012 but the direct attribution to sales and ROI remains elusive. Social is still important, but profits are “exciting.”

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