Why Is Email So Enduring?

A few days back, I received a newsletter from Quartz Obsession in the inbox.  It’s a fantastic newsletter by the way – packed full of knowledge in a digestible way – perfect for a short read during commute. It’s brief but not shallow, and you walk away with a better understanding of the world and stuffs around you.

On that day, the topic happened to be email. We all have a love-hate relationship with it. Many of us know we are spending too much time on it yet we remain hooked. Despite other tools like Slack claiming they’re shaving hours off worker’s day, email is still going strong. In fact it’s growing year after year.

I’ll quote directly from Quartz:

The data speaks for itself. The number of emails sent is steadily growing 3% year over year, and as of 2018, almost 3 billion humans have at least one email account. (The average is 1.8 email addresses per person.) And the answer is really pretty simple: Even if they complain about it, pretty much everybody actually really likes email.

Publishers like it because it’s a way to directly connect to readers. It’s not beholden to an opaque algorithm, that when tinkered with can cut content off from the reading swathes of your audience: In the inbox, you can connect with the people who like your publication directly. (Hi, again!) It’s great for writers and other creatives for these same reasons, as evidenced by the outcry over the rumored shuttering of MailChimp’s wonky, lo-fi TinyLetter platform earlier this year.

Marketers like it because it’s segmentable: For example, you can customize messaging to different clients based on what they’ve bought from you in the past. And plain old humans like it because, unlike the ubiquitous social media streams cascading in from all directions, it can be managed, customized, and … even … ignored. Email is still relatively intimate by digital standards. And it’s polite: It enables communication without the expectation of an immediate response.

When we rely entirely on platform like Facebook for traffic and contention distribution, we are at their mercy. A slight tweak on the news feed can have tremendous impact. Many brands are producing awesome content, but it’s just not showing up on the follower’s feed. It’s a shift towards “if you want your brand post to be seen, pay.”

Email doesn’t have this problem. It’s always there in the inbox. Legitimate emails may get identified as spam, but at least they’re delivered. It’s not like there’s a tweak to the algorithm and comes the next day, there’s a high possibility of your mail not getting through to the receiver.

But that’s what happening to social networks. And that’s why email is such a powerful and underrated tool in today’s context. Many see social media as a must-have platform and don’t give enough attention to email. But those who done it right reap rewards from it. My personal favourites include those that blends personal touch, whimsical approach and interesting information. Tattly and Hiut Denim are two of my favourite newsletters.

Unlike instant messaging, we don’t have a moral obligation to respond within a short span of time. And for us workers who rely on emails for communication, the last paragraph sums it up nicely – it enables communication without the expectation of an immediate response.

Email really is the ubiquitous tool that is so enduring.