Feb 162005

The Rumors of Email’s Demise Have Been Greatly Exaggerated, Part IV

The Rumors of Email’s Demise Have Been Greatly Exaggerated, Part IV

This one could also be entitled “What Are The Bloggers Smoking?”

Reports from last week’s Blog Business Summit like this one are starting to filter in (pun slightly intended).  This one gets a big yawn from me, even more so than the other times I’ve posted on this subject, here, here, and here.  I’m as much of a blogger and a believer in blogs and RSS as the next guy — maybe even more so — but honestly, people, blogs are going to replace email?

I’d like to address a few critical points here head on, although a large part of me doesn’t even want to dignify yet another empty “email is dead” quote with a response.

Basic error #1. The article seems to confuse blogs with RSS feeds.  RSS feeds are data streams coming into an RSS reader application.  Blogs are web sites.  Hello?!?

Fallacy #1. Because blogs/RSS are interesting new media, email will go away.  To paraphrase my colleague Mike Mayor, why is it that whenever something new comes along, its proponents have to bash the current paradigm to make their thing seem more important?  Let’s go through this one — TV came along, and people said radio would go away.  Cable came along, and everyone said the networks were toast.  The fax machine came along, and FedEx was said to be relegated to legal documents that needed to be signed personally.  The Internet came along, and people said everything else was insignificant (newspapers, TV, radio, snail mail).  So yes, new media do arrive on the scene and perhaps make a dent in all prior media, but I’m having a hard time thinking of that one comes in and clocks another one mano a mano.

Fallacy #2. Spam has made email more difficult, therefore email will go away.  There’s a whole industry out there fighting spam.  I know, I know, just because we want the problem to go away doesn’t mean that we can will it away — but filters are working better by the day (did everyone catch this posting about Postini this week?), false positives can be managed down by vigilant clients working with vendors like Return Path, and whitelists, whenever they start really working and charging money to clients to guarantee delivery, will still leave email as the cheapest medium for targeted commercial messaging out there.

Naive belief #1. Spam has harmed email, but blogs/RSS are immune to the same problems.  I’m sorry, do you think the bad guys, or as Fred always calls it, the Internet Axis of Evil (spam, viruses, spyware, DNS hacking, phishing, and the like) are going to leave blogs and RSS feeds alone?  Not a chance.  The bad guys are already hard at work expanding their Axis of Evil.  There’s already comment spam for blogs (or blam, as some call it).  People have and can hijack RSS feeds (no cool name yet).  There’s Instant Messenger spam (spim).  Last week, I heard about a new one that blew me away, which is that someone figured out how to hijack a Voice Over IP phone call and insert an audio ad/porn into the call (spip).

Naive belief #2. Blogs are truly interactive.  Other than a couple of very popular blogs during the height of last fall’s election, I just don’t think this is true for the mainstream.  There are certainly some people who have a little too much time on their hands who spend hours every day blogging, but most people skim most blogs as one-way communication.   While there are mechanisms for commenting, there aren’t ready mechanisms for publishing comments back to the blog audience (thank goodness), so this medium hasn’t turned out nearly as interactive as people had hoped at the onset.  RSS feeds, in case the writer/speaker was confused in this argument, are completely non-interactive.

Naive belief #3. People will read blogs with an agenda of marketing specific products and services.  The beauty of the blog is that it’s not corporate, and it doesn’t have marketing spin on it.  Blogs are much more journals and publishing tools than marketing vehicles.  Who the heck is going to read a blog on Coke?  Or Nike?  Or Microsoft?  Sure, I might read Howard Shultz’s blog if he had one (his book was good enough), but that’s very different than reading the Starbucks official blog.  Why bother?  Where’s the value there?

Ok, I’m done with today’s rant.  As I said, I love blogging as much as the next guy, but puh-lease!  And for the record, I do believe that RSS feeds and maybe even IM from marketers/publishers will supplement email and in some cases maybe even replace it, but email just isn’t going away any time soon.

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  • http://furrier.typepad.com John Furrier

    Agreed Matt. Email is the killer app and will continue to be the killer app even though communication vehicles change and adapt with new techniques. Email will not only thrive but continue to prosper. It will just take it’s place in the communication mix.

  • http://www.majid.info/ Fazal Majid

    Spam over voice over IP ought to be “spit” (SPam over Internet Telephony), not “spip”…

    As for the RSS vs. email story, there is a moderate point of view and an extremist one.

    Moderates think spam will kill mailing lists (if only because managing mailing lists is such a logistical nightmare due to false positives). It is hard to argue with this, specially once RSS becomes ubiquitous with Longhorn and Tiger, although the speed of migration might disappoint RSS partisans.

    The extremist position is that somehow store-and-forward email is going to be replaced by a polling architecture where the email would be stored on the sender’s server. With closed-circuit email, this is conceivable, but those systems don’t have a spam problem. If you want to receive email from anyone on the Internet, this isn’t going to fly, as you would still need some sort of notification message to start pulling.

  • Danny

    hi matt, great post. to be honest, i was sorta getting caught up in the delusion (just a bit ;)

    if i could add smth to your post; i kinda started a blog on our corporate site (coupla weeks ago), for a lot of reasons i guess, but mostly to tell a story- or “examine problems” in tech speak.

    and i think there is a place for that, perhaps, all companies do have an interesting story to tell…so maybe there is a place for the corporate blog.

    ohhh, and what about this; The Final Fallacy- websites are dead. Do you think the dominant website format will be wiped out by the blogs? u know what i mean- on average websites don’t get traffic, page views or succeed at getting more than 30sec of attention- maybe good point- ‘caus i’ve just spent a good 5minutes on OnlyOnce ;)

    Best Regards
    Daniel N
    first time CEO
    hotblog.com.au

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  • http://ifindkarma.typepad.com/relax/ Adam

    You write, “email just isn’t going away any time soon.”

    But that doesn’t mean I want marketing in my email.

    You say, “email [is] the cheapest medium for targeted commercial messaging out there”, but there is an entire class of consumers (myself included) who will avoid products and services marketed to us via email.

    Be careful. Just because iMediaConnection is wrong, doesn’t make email a conduit for whatever thing whatever marketer wants to shove down the pipe.

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  • http://emailuniverse.com/ezine-tips/?22-Reasons-Why-Email-Is-Not-Dead&id=1060 Chris Knight

    I still respect Chris Pirillo and wonder why a guy who sends 100k emails a day thinks email is dead. :-)

    It could just be fun to pronounce something as dead in order to make a case for some new wizbang technology. RSS is actually quite old, but its adoption is finally getting some traction.

    No doubt I’ve embraced RSS and blogging and so should you, — but email’s dominance as a communication method is going to continue for many more decades to come! :-)

    Christopher Knight
    http://Ezine-Tips.com/

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