Monday, December 01, 2014

Monday Forum - the death of email

This is actually something I have written about before, but I now have another case study.

We were talking about communications at Sunday's New England Writers' Center Board Workshop (Lunch in Armidale).Some time ago, we switched from print and post to email. It saved time and cash. It allowed us to "communicate" with members more frequently, providing them with a wider range of information.

Now the results of a survey were in. Our members absolutely hated email. Few read the emails, few opened the newsletters on which so much time had been spent on content and design. Consulting some of our sister organisations, they told us that around 5% of emails were opened and read. The equivalent figure for print and post was about 95%.

Looking at these stats, we decided to stop using email as a communications device. We are going back to the old print and post. It just works better even though it is much more expensive.

I wondered about you. Do you hate emails? How on earth do you manage your email traffic? I can't.

Are we seeing the death of emails?


Rummuser said...

No, I don't. I simply do not subscribe to group mails other than family and friend ones.

Anonymous said...


1. I had a look at your NEWC website hoping to get a feel for the content of your 'newsletters' - but there seems to be no link for them? Surely a better step back from intrusive never-read emails is to simply publish them on your website?

2. I find it very hard to believe that 5% actually read your emailed newsletter, while 95% read the printed version? Or is that 'read' past tense - as in what used to be the case before the shift to email?

3. To consign your newsletters to hardcopy only seems a very retrograde step; how can one usefully refer to a topic raised a year ago except by linking to an online copy? You want everybody you are addressing to scrabble back through printed backcopies to find what you are on about? Not going to happen.

4. Who is the poor soul who must now produce the newsletter, print it, post it, hope to be recompensed for it? If you are already emailing it why not just whack it up as a sub-category on the NEWC blog?

There may certainly be instances where the use of email is not appropriate for either the sender or recipient - and I would tend to think a blog style approach would be better than email for newsletters - but printed, copied, posted?

You have got to be kidding.

ps spent 3 years as 'assistant' to my wife's monthly 20 page newsletter production for a dog club; 130-odd copies photocopied, bulk-posted every month. Even the sorting for the bulk posting requirement was a time-consuming pain in the a*

Anonymous said...

Hi Jim

I prefer writing letters rather than emailing as a means of staying in touch with friends.

I do receive group email bulletins and newsletters from U3A at their request because it is cheaper than sending hard copies. And I do read them.

The middle course would seem to be to use the website?



Evan said...

My main way of managing email is 'unsubscribe'.

Gmail handles spam pretty well.

Email probably has a different function to print newsletters - for immediate response rather than information (a website or blog is probably better for deeper or longer-lasting content).

Anonymous said...

Of course, if one was to consider your newsletter as essentially the "commodification of information being brought to market" then one must also investigate the most economic means of transmission of that ‘good’ to the end-consumer. And if or even why, indeed, need there be an ‘end’? One goes immediately to one’s most trusted source of economic critique, Derrida:

The “mystical character” of the commodity is inscribed before being inscribed, traced before being written out letter for letter on the forehead or the screen of the commodity. Everything begins before it begins. Marx wants to know and make known where at what precise moment at what instant the ghost comes on stage, and this is a manner of exorcism, a way of keeping it at bay: before this limit, it was not there, it was powerless. We are suggesting on the contrary that, before the coup de theatre of this instant, before the “as soon as it comes on stage as commodity, it changes into a sensuous supersensible thing,” the ghost had made its apparition, without appearing in person, of course and by definition, but having already hollowed out in use-value, in the hard-headed wood of the headstrong table, the repetition (therefore substitution, exchangeability, iterability, the loss of singularity as the experience of singularity itself, the possibility of capital) without which a use could never even be determined. This haunting is not an empirical hypothesis. Without it, one could not even form the concept either of use-value, or of value in general, or inform any matter whatsoever, or determine any table, whether a wooden table-useful or saleable — or a table of categories. Or any Tablet of commandments. One could not even complicate, divide, or fracture sufficiently the concept of use-value by pointing out, as Marx does for example, this obvious fact: for its first presumed owner, the man who takes it to market as use-value meant for others, the first use-value is an exchange-value.

As I always say, nobody but no one can obfuscate quite so succinctly :)


Jim Belshaw said...

Hi all. Some great comments.

Trying to draw together different elements. Most broadly, horses for courses.

First, the present web site is still developmental. All the newsletters will be posted there for "permanent" access. Increased use of the web site is part of the reduced use of email.

Loved the Derrida material, kvd. But now, with so much email crap, the 95% refers to current reading patterns. Sue makes a special effort to read certain material, but it wouldn't be such a load if it were printed.

With a thing like a newsletter, the content and graphic design is common regardless of distribution mechanism. Extra costs with physical come from printing and posting.But if the read return is greater, those costs don't matter.

Winton Bates said...

Hi Jim
Your data is interesting.
My own perspective is that email is too easy to ignore or overlook, so I prefer to get important communication via snail mail even when an incentive is offered to go electronic.
I suspect the answer lies in further technological advances to help sort messages rather than in going back to old technology.

Anonymous said...

Not necessary to intellectualise this. I never elect to receive my communications from banks, shares registries, etc electronically. Saves printing them out when I want to retain a hardcopy.


2 tanners said...

Whereas I always choose to have my material sent electronically if possible (amusing side note - computer magazines are the least flexible in this regard). Particular subjects or senders are automatically relegated to certain folders for concentrated reading or headline scanning and deleting as appropriate. All email clients have tools and tricks to do this, and the web itself has a vast collection of email management tips. And my study is not piled floor to ceiling with unmanageable, unsearchable junk.

Unknown said...

I remember receiving NEWC newsletters when I was at uni. I loved them. Full of wonderful stories and places to submit stories too. More than 10 years on I still have some of the newsletters because I love reading them. Getting ideas from them. I became a member again from afar in the last 12months and was saddened there was no more newsletter only emails.

Jim Belshaw said...

Hi all. Sorry for my slow response.

Winton, DG,I moved to electronic for that type of correspondence and wish I hadn't!

2T, I use tools and folders too. But my own lack of discipline is a problem. Further problems are the increasing storage of trivia, loss when computers crash, extra printing and paper costs, the loss of key records and my own behavioural impacts including increased laziness. I send someone an email instead of talking to them!

Email is valuable, but I have to work out how to manage it. That's another post.

Oh Becky, I so agree. I still have copies of some things like Smith's Weekly that I kept because they were important. I love the look and feel now.