The Email Paradigm Reversal

Email – Becoming the Unnecessary Evil

Esther Dyson’s Release 1.0, in the November issue, has a great chart provided by Meng Wong on the flip in the “paradigm shift” of email – the great killer app of the Internet. The topic of the issue is the “accountable net,” but the Meng Wong graphic (on page 29 of the issue), essentially boils down the shift in attitudes about email from 20th Century Email to 21st Century Email into ten tenets.

Tenet number one holds that in the last century, “The average message is good. Spam is the exception.” In this century “The average message is spam. Ham is the exception.”

Tenet two: in the 20th century, “By default, accept a message unless we have a good reason to reject it.” In this century: “By default, reject a message unless we have a good reason to accept it.”

Which I tie together to the report this morning that Doubleclick is reporting a steep decline in “marketing mail” efficacy as reported on MediaPost

That report leads with:
“Revenue per e-mail delivered dropped by 19.2 percent year-over-year in the third quarter, even as the proportion of customers who made purchases after clicking through to the sites included in messages grew to 4.2 percent from 3.4 percent, according to DoubleClick’s most recent e-mail trend report, released Monday. The decrease in revenue per e-mail appears to stem from falls in both the percentage of consumers opening e-mail and those clicking on the links contained in messages, as well as from smaller median order sizes.”

Email newsletters were the hot property in the late nineties. Advertisers saw greater response rates when they sponsored and embedded their links into an old-fashioned ASCII email newletter than any banner or skyscraper unit on a page. While Doubleclick’s report doesn’t assail email newsletters, the syllogism can be made that a commercial link embedded in an email newsletter is losing its appeal.

I wrote a piece on the state of direct marketing one year after the passage of the Do Not Call Registry. With no where to go, the intrusive marketing crowd was expected to pile onto email, begging the question if a Do Not Mail registry was viable.

Apparently not, sayeth the experts. Too hard to manage and Sisyphean in the face of offshore spam.

Anyway, given the torrent of misguided bullshit that lands in the typical inbox everyday, email has lost for the time being. When you see good people like Sheldon Brown, the guru of all things related to bicycles suffer under the barrage of 4,000 pieces of Spam today, you come to the realization that the noise has thoroughly overwhelmed the signal.

Author: David Churbuck

Cape Codder with an itch to write

0 thoughts on “The Email Paradigm Reversal”

  1. My monthly newsletter to a thoroughly vetted customer list gets around 15% or more monthly bounces. No matter that the customer wants it, the email simply doesn’t make in house at the customer location.

    So where do we go from here? If email is going to become a private, “invite-in” medium, are we going to be forced to going back to actually printing newsletters?

  2. Actually Mark, Yes.

    According to Carol Krol’s article on Direct Mail is making a comeback. Back in the day, direct mail was highly effective (if used for the right kind of products). And then everyone started doing it, turning direct mail into untargeted, spammings (like email is used today).

    Since email evolved, and marketers took their focus to the new customer contact channel, the direct mailing industry took a pretty big hit. However, now that email has lost a lot of its value (except for the targetted, triple opt-in, inclusion-only, sign-up required type – which.. as you note, still gets about a 15% bounce rate). Executives for a lot of companies are beginning to actually respond to personalized, well-targeted letters.

    Snail Mail Strikes Back.

    Check out David Booth’s Blog: The Marketing Booth, at

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