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Case studies The death of the email: a long, long story

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(Foto: Flickr.com/photos/carabendon)

A lot has been written about the alleged death of the email due to social networks. It is generally thought that a high use of social media will automatically correspond to a reduction in the use of the email. The reality is however far from it:

email_consumption

Somehow an intensive use of social platforms corresponds to an intensive use of emails.

Sure, the research carried out by Nielsen is a couple of years old now, and there has probably been a decline in the last few years. But here’s some other data: Pew Internet Research confirms that searching and emailing are firmly up there amongst the top uses of Internet - with 92% of online adults regularly using email.

And a survey carried out by Radicati a few months ago sighted a comforting projection: the number of email accounts should continue to rise - from 3.1 billion today to nearly 4.1 billion by the end of 2015. This is without denying of course, as the Radicati Group was quick to point out, that communications via social networks are increasing exponentially.

So what does that mean?

So far the email has aptly managed to withstand the alleged "attacks" by the social network world. The likes of which include Facebook Messages, or the famous "Project Titan" launched a year ago -which turned out to be a real flash in the pan.

All the same, a healthy bit of scepticism is a must: the resounding vitality of the email today doesn’t necessarily imply that it’ll be around forever. Above all, it remains to be seen what impact the evolution or involution will have as a result of new technologies and especially with the "empowerment" of new generations. As we have already written when talking about the email and teenagers,

Everybody based their opinion around the fact that everything remains the same, when today's teenagers became tomorrow's thirty-somethings, they’ll pass over from social media to emailing and voila. It isn’t clear if emailing is destined to remain in any case: it could evolve or perhaps even disappear all together. How many prior technologies have met with the same fate, after all?

Scott Cohen, discussing precisely this point, stated that until there is some type of business conducted through the internal communications of Facebook and Twitter there will never ever be any risks to emailing.

In short: to talk about the "death of the email" is in the present state of things, totally premature and lacks any concrete foundations: the requiem has been sung far too many times, while the email continues to bury its undertakers.

What should however be stressed is that new instant messaging habits or the use of alternative methods of communication will negatively affect its future. Of course, social networks almost always need an email account to work, but it will be used more and more as a simple access key, limiting the actual e-mail transmission to a minimum.

Recently, for example, Atos Origin has planned to give up using emailing as its company’s internal method of communication. A highly talked about case that gives food for thought, and as the Italian web analyst Luca de Biase stated:

Email is asymmetric in terms of effort: it almost always requires more to read than to write it, putting together documents and above all sending it off. CC has become disproportionately too big. And people hardly ever know how to precisely define what is important for them when it comes to opening a message. Finding a new balance between the efforts required by the recipient and the sender could be a key factor in this thinking. Even semantics seems to be an area of development. And certainly one can think of many other solutions. Probably behind such thinking, there is a pretty significant business potential.

[02/06/2012]

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