Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
November 7, 2009 8:33 AM

Email Still Matters

Email is dead. Right. Along with Blogging, Podcasting and everything else. But how true is that statement when it comes to getting business done?

Do teens email as much as they text? Probably not. Teens have not been culturally stewed in the ways of going to an office and working on a computer. Most teens start down their technology road with a mobile device. It's also not mission critical for teens to manage, store and evaluate text messages or tweets from the day, week or month before. But, make no mistake about it, email still matters. And, it would matter to the younger generation if they actually had to manage and organize the text content they are creating.

Business is a long way away from dropping email. 

Sure, there is a real need for email to modernize even more (check out Google Wave for what email could/will look like going forward), but for my money, email is still a vital lifeline. As much as Google Reader, Twitter, Facebook and Skype provide powerful (and great) new ways to communicate, email is still a primary way to communicate and also get information. For years, Internet Marketing focused on Email Marketing, and while talking about email marketing may seem as exciting as talking about Second Life at this point, there are still millions of people - specifically those in business, with education and money to spend - that rely on email as their primary lifeline. And, for those who can make it personalized and relevant, Email Marketing still delivers great ROI.

I rely on email. Do you? 

For one, email is private (for the most part). The content of that email is not owned (or ownable) by a third party (like Facebook, Twitter, etc...). It's fascinating to see many businesses or independent consultants using these public online social networks for business. Sure, they're great to connect, but any interfacing between clients, private communications, company-specific content (like your intellectual property) is now a part of their system too. Not to be paranoid, or make you paranoid, but they do have the right to review that content and do with it what they will (like sell it to your competitors). Now, let's not get too paranoid, but the content is, essentially, available to the highest bidder.

Pushing beyond the paranoia.

Whether it's for e-newsletters, Google Alerts or quick notes from key business people or new business opportunities, nothing beats email. Beyond the hundred of RSS feeds and people that I am following on Twitter or keywords being tracked using TweetDeck, email still inspires everything from articles to read and Blogs to check out, to the latest news items to review and businesses opportunities to attack. On top of that, because it's not "live" and streaming in a "river of news" type of flow, it does seem somewhat more manageable. That being said, my inbox is still more like a game of Tetris than anything else. As soon as I read, delete and move emails over to folders, more keep pounding down, making the stack higher and higher. Still, I'd take email over voicemail any day.

How important is email to you and your business? Has something replaced it? 

By Mitch Joel


Comments Comments Feed
  • Posted by Eric Ungs
    Mitch Joel

    I don't think email will ever be replaced. It may be tweaked and altered (like everything else) for better communication, but the email inbox is definitely here to stay. It's definitely a vital part of all business practices because it's the one true thing that is 'ours' and is 'protected'. Email is the only communication online that I have the most confidence in as far as privacy goes.

    It's also a huge marketing tool for all size businesses, depending on the complexities of your e-blasts it's relatively inexpensive. The one thing that I think will evolve even more is brands placing more of a social aspect into their email campaigns. Making them more intimate and more personal based on previous purchases, searches, etc.

    Teens and email use is far higher than what most think. Their email is a central hub for all of their social networks' updates and notifications to filter in to.

    Once again, great post.

    Thanks.

    @EricUngs

    Reply
  • Posted by rubyxxcube
    Mitch Joel

    Email will definitely not be replaced, especially for business and organisations. It is a crucial platform which we rely on, on a daily basis to communicate and carry out business transactions. It also provides for a more professional persona in dealing with customers/clients/businesses.

    Google Wave is aiming to change the way we communicate/interact by trying to replace email and the likes but this would probably only be successful for marketing optimization strategies and social media affiliations.

    Email would probably evolve to include more of these networking and social media platforms, so that it would be a more integrated and friendly way of communicating. But I think on the overall, email is here to stay!

    Cheers
    @rubyxxcube

    Reply
  • Posted by Rebecca
    Mitch Joel

    Since I work primarily online, nearly all my communication involves the computer. At this point, I work with clients and colleagues who have a variety of preferences. I use mostly IM, myself, but I work with a designer who's easiest to reach by Twitter -- even if it's a tweet saying "I've sent you an email" or "Check Basecamp." I have a couple of clients who phone me (shudder), kids who always text, and friends who communicate with me entirely through Facebook.
    I think this is probably the norm right now. We have lots of choices, and different people and groups choose different media. At some point, we may all settle down to one primary medium, as I think the 20th century did with the telephone. Or perhaps we'll all need facility with all of them.
    Email is the basic now, but I doubt that it's safe to predict. People who announce that something is dead, however, nearly always look silly a few years later.

    Reply
  • Posted by Russell Dunkin
    Mitch Joel

    Our business, and me personally, use email and do not have plans to change. However, after a small taste of what Google Wave can do, I can see communication changing for the better. That doesn't mean email is dead. The iPhone didn't kill off other smart phones, and every new PDA isn't an iPhone killer. Instead, the iPhone made other phones better. Now they all have some form of app store. Touch screens are everywhere. Even if I think the iPhone is superior, not everyone is going to switch and from what I've seen with the droid, and some new Blackberry's, the industry itself has dramatically improved. I can see the same thing happening with email, or blogging, or podcasts. We shouldn't be so worried about the name of what we are using, so much as the benefits it provides.

    Reply
  • Posted by Ian M Rountree
    Mitch Joel

    Admittedly most of the work I do is server support and dealing with web hosting issues - I'm a rather limited back-end guy. But my job got a lot easier when I got a phone that could handle Instant Messaging apps, beyond just email. Email means taking more than five seconds out of whatever I'm doing to compose a response, whereas if someone I'm hosting for flips me a message over WLM or AIM or GTalk or whichever else I happen to be on, it doesn't matter what the issue is, we have an instant conversation to back the work that needs to get done, instead of playing tag like pen pals.

    I don't think email is dead - it's simply being re-purposed in some cases. I certainly don't agree with the idea that Wave will replace email. If I ever get involved in it, more likely than not it'll become a supplement, the way email now supplements my IM process by being long-handed hard copy records.

    Reply
  • Posted by Scott Bowman
    Mitch Joel

    Not only is email not dead, but it actually has the opportunity to get better. With all of the new ways to communicate, many in real time, less junk could possibly end up in your inbox.

    Now, I like kittens. It's true; a cute pic with a funny caption can be nice to share. But as more and more people spread out across the Internet, they are sharing these type of communications on Twitter, Facebook, etc. Which is much better than emailing it to everyone in your address book.

    Less noise in your inbox means that possibly what actually lands there could be important to you. Just a thought.

    Reply
  • Posted by Greg Cangialosi
    Mitch Joel

    Thank you Mitch :-) Great post. As I often say in my presentations, email is the "digital glue" of the internet. It not only is the dominant online medium, but is the main driver of activity within the social web. Email is not dead, its more important than ever! Thanks for writing.

    - Greg

    Reply
  • Posted by Dawn Gilpin
    Mitch Joel

    I agree that email is important, although it's going to change shape quite a bit in the coming years--just as the telephones we use today bear little resemblance to those from 100 years ago. As mentioned by another commenter, different people prefer different means of communication, and at this point we are used to a kind of flexibility that "traditional" email doesn't yet allow. Wave is a step toward adding that sort of flexibility in terms of the types of content that can be shared, and the ability to bring people seamlessly into (and out of) conversations.

    However, I admit some confusion over the privacy concerns expressed in your post. I'm an active user of many Google services, and am enjoying Wave quite a bit, but I don't see it as any safer from the risks of content surveillance and ownership than Twitter, Facebook, or the other social media tools you mention. And the fact is, if I email someone--even within my own organization--there's nothing to stop them from having all of their mail forwarded to Gmail or another commercial email service. Just because there is no public monitoring or keyword tracking system, as with Twitter, doesn't mean that Gmail (or Wave) is not, as you say, available to the highest bidder. Perhaps not now, but the potential is there.

    Reply
    • I totally agree with you. However, it is safer/more private if you are running email (or any form of communications) on your own server - which is what I meant. Sorry for the confusion and thanks for the clarification.

      Reply
      • Posted by Dawn Gilpin
        Mitch Joel

        Yes, but as I pointed out, even if you send the email from your own server, it can be forwarded to Gmail and indexed like all the other social media content out there. I know a number of people who prefer to use Gmail as their primary service, even if they have a more secure address provided by their employer. It'a a matter of convenience. (And that's not even counting organizations that have enterprise accounts with Gmail and other services.) As addresses proliferate and people become more comfortable with electronic surveillance, we will see this more often.

        What I'm saying is that, in this era of social media, you have minimal control over where your content goes, and whom it's shared with. I think it's important to recognize that the privacy cow is out of the barn, and figure out how to operate in this new system.

        Reply
  • Posted by Jeffrey Banks
    Mitch Joel

    Email is currently the single most indispensable business communication tool. Some of my client won't even respond to voice mail!

    In addition, I have found that even young people in my office do not understand the effectiveness of intra-network messenger and/or twitter, prefer instead to rely on traditional email.

    While there's a lot of buzz about Google Wave, I've yet to hear a clearly articulated explanation of it. So, until everyone gets their head wrapped around it, and until we can get an older generation of executives to understand the lightning-fast nature of paradigm shifts among communications platforms, email remains relevant.

    Reply
  • Posted by Loic Bernard
    Mitch Joel

    Email did not kill the fax machine, as the CD was unable to destroy vinyl records even though we can now “scan to email� any signature on a contract or adjust any digital EQ to sound as “round� as a record player. Good inventions simply don’t die.

    On a sociological point of view, electronic messages, text or email, create unnecessary distances between friends, even allowing people to show they care without actually having to. Why bother calling, visiting someone, going distances, when you can quickly type and send 3 simple words, “thinking about you�. In this respect, email should die. There’s no more time, our urban lives are lived in a rush.
    In the office, beyond the communicative tool, emails have become back-up to people’s memories, a recording and a proof of what has happened, basically it stores information that you would otherwise transcribe on a piece of paper that you will lose, eventually. It’s there, just store in the appropriate folder and refer to it whenever necessary. Again, the spoken word is not enough, we ask people to “put it in writing and send it to me by email� to protect ourselves. Email now has a legal value … In this respect, email shouldn’t die.

    The danger remains that the speed at which the electronic media is forcing us to communicate is killing the attention one should pay when using the written word. Could the abbreviated word used in an abbreviated sentence translate into an abbreviated language? Mistakes are made and quickly forgotten. Only the information itself matters. Of course. Or not?

    It’s up to us.

    Reply
  • Posted by Dror Zaifman
    Mitch Joel

    Email is a long way if ever from being dead. It is used daily for business and personal use. Social media may grab some attention but at the end of the day most of us are notified by email when someone sends us a question or comment on a social media website such as Facebook or Twitter.

    Almost every transaction that we do on the web is confirmed in our email inbox.

    A very interesting website that I found a while back on the statistics of email usage as well as why email is not dead is http://www.emailisnotdead.com

    Some of these statistics are below.

    If email was a country, its 1.4 billion users would make it the largest in the world. Bigger than China, bigger than the populations of the USA and European Union combined.

    247 billion emails are sent each day. That's one email every 0.00000035 seconds.

    In the time it takes you to read this sentence, some 20 million emails entered cyberspace.

    Every second, the world's email users produce messages equivalent in size to over 16,000 copies of the Complete Works of Shakespeare (assuming a 30KB average email size).

    13.4 billion: the number of direct marketing dollars forecast to go on email in the US in 2009.

    $583 billion: the return from that investment if you use DMA figures on email marketing ROI. That's four times the market value of Microsoft.

    181: the number of marketing emails it would take to produce enough revenue to buy one share in Microsoft.

    83,689,738,832,367: the number of marketing emails it would take to produce enough revenue to pay the US National Debt.

    Reply
  • I believe that email is and will stay very important to us and any business. Although we've been multiplying the number of channels we communicate with, there's not been a better place for private and durable communications. Every other service has been about a "window" on a conversation where email have always been about the content of the conversation.

    Reply
  • Posted by Grant
    Mitch Joel

    I still have many clients who utlize email to communicate their message to a larger audience. It is still very efficient and effective. I use email in my business to send quotaitons and documents. It is still a very effective way to communicate with my clients.

    Reply
  • Posted by Vaishnavi
    Mitch Joel

    I work in Online marketing and personally I see email staying for a long time. For example, the company I work for is an IT consulting company and our clientele respond to emails better than the new media-many still don't understand the power of social media.

    Reply
  • Posted by DJ Waldow
    Mitch Joel

    Clearly I am biased as I work for an Email Service Provider (ESP), but I agree:

    Email does still matter.

    Our industry continues to grow. Even though many are dipping into some of the shiny social media tools, we still have a ways to go around educating marketers on email marketing best practices. I always tell clients and prospects that if they are ready to dive into Twitter and Facebook and other SM tools, they better have already optimized their email marketing program. Sadly, most have not!

    Thanks so much for continuing to advocate for email. We need more people like you!

    (Nice book too - I just finished it!).

    DJ Waldow
    Director of Community, Blue Sky Factory
    @djwaldow

    Reply
  • Posted by Tessa Carroll
    Mitch Joel

    Email is by far one of the most important things I use everyday. Especially now, with the onslaught of high tech smart phones on the market, email is still a highly effective communication tool. And, as you said Mitch, it's still the one form of technology with the ability to remain private.

    Though it may be evolving more and more to keep up with new technologies, change is good. People, companies, etc still rely on email to conduct business and remain successful. I don't see that changing in the near future.

    Tessa Carroll
    www.blogs.vbpoutsourcing.com

    Reply
  • Posted by Jessica Wolbert
    Mitch Joel

    Brilliant article.

    I had heard "email is dying"
    I had also seen people at networking events give out only their Twitter and Facebook id without email being associated with it at all.....
    I guess that works for them, but not for me...and probably not for MOST people.

    However,for many of us private information, a place with no limits or
    and of course... some of us are not online at all times. Email systems like outlook allow us to write and store emails while we are not connected. Saving emails for later, writing notes for a topic of an email, saving it and closing it for another time....these are all HUGE advantages of email in my opinion.

    This is one of the reasons I think that for me personally an iphone or blackberry is not a super helpful tool.
    The times when I REALLY get things done is when I'm sitting undistracted, clicking between multiple windows editing information and communicating THROUGH email with my colleagues.

    Anyone else have thoughts? Or am I the only one who is TRULY productive when I'm sitting at my computer writing emails and writing content?

    Reply
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