Product Management :: Product Marketing

12 January, 2011

Email is for old people

The NY Times published an article before Christmas about the drop in usage of email amongst teens.

The problem with e-mail, young people say, is that it involves a boringly long process of signing into an account, typing out a subject line and then sending a message that might not be received or answered for hours.

NYT quotes these stats:
The number of total unique visitors in the United States to major e-mail sites like Yahoo and Hotmail is now in steady decline, according to the research company comScore. Such visits peaked in November 2009 and have since slid 6 percent; visits among 12- to 17-year-olds fell around 18 percent.
One interviewee said:
E-mail has its place — namely work and other serious business, like online shopping. She and others say they still regularly check e-mail, in part because parents, teachers and bosses use it.

The substitution is text, IM and Facebook of course.

I pondered this over Christmas and did some further research. The argument is 5-8 years old: exactly the same stuff around the rise of instant messenger. See Interesting article: E-Mail is for Old People from 2006

I recall (with the horror, due to the trust / privacy violation) witnessing teens accepting a friend of a friend into their contact list, merely so that one person didn't have to have two chats going simultaneously. (With horror, because in instant messengers, the connection is ongoing and provides online presence too, whereas email is merely a single transaction.)

In a more recent article from February last year, Email is for Old People, the substitutes are text, twitter, or Facebook.

Here are the use cases:
"How do you communicate anything substantial, with only 160 characters?"
  • "U only need 160 chars 2 say what U need 2 say. FYI."
  • "Facebook is for bigger stuff - and pictures."
  • "If you really need to write something big you just post it to your blog. I have an RSS feed of all my friends blogs."

Email has its place and won't be degraded to worthless. Teens lives are generally one dimensional: work, home, friends are all the same crowd, so one integrated tool will work for them. As they grow up, then the asynchronous advantages of email will be come useful to them.

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