On Friday, the latest in a long line of “email is dead” blog posts was published, this time by a guy named Ted Landphair, and as if right on cue, folks I know in the email world got all riled up about it, going back and forth about how stupid and misguided the blog post was.
Every now and then this happens — too often, really — and it’s always the same routine: A provocative article gets published declaring the end of email. Industry folks and others all link back to the article, thus driving up the writer’s traffic. Email folks go on defense, arguing that email is still an effective marketing channel. Email folks claim moral victory. Nobody cares, and nothing changes.
Landphair’s column was particularly foolhardy, and it made some of the same basic points that others have made before. Among them, he used the wrong-headed line of reasoning that Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg amusingly used two years ago, that teenagers don’t use email, so email is going away.
When Sandberg said that in 2010, she was hit by a wave of criticism and mockery — including a bunch from me and my industry peers. We gleefully piled on with equally silly death-knell pronouncements, including “Kids don’t drive. Therefore, cars will soon cease to exist” and “Most teens don’t drink red wine; red wine is probably going away.”
Suffice it to say, those same lines are getting another workout now.
I acknowledge the inherent irony in my writing a blog post criticizing others who write blog posts that criticize these blog posts, and I know writing this only keeps the discussion alive (especially with that headline), so I’m not going to waste any time going point-counterpoint about how wrong Landphair is and explaining — again — how well email as a marketing channel still works. (Given Landphair’s apparent age and the condescending tone of his article, my tweeting it with the hashtag #getoffamylawn was more than enough rebuttal.)
Instead, I’m going to make a simple request to my colleagues and others: Let’s stop taking the bait and pouncing on these blog posts. Let’s stop being so defensive about email’s validity as a marketing tactic. Let’s stop validating these silly pronouncements by rising to email’s defense every time one is written.
Let’s stop giving these people so much attention.
It’s like with other misguided individuals (Sarah Palin comes to mind) who often say things that (either intentionally or unintentionally) stir the pot: The more exposure we give their views, the more empowered they feel, and the more perceived credibility they have because people thought it was important enough to point them out and argue the opposite point.
Email is not dead. Far from it.
In fact, in recent years, other channels like social media have only made email stronger, whether those channels are used in conjunction with email or whether social media uses email to draw attention back to a particular network. (D.J. Waldow wrote a blog post about this recently, noting that Twitter and Pinterest are now both using email as a way to keep users in the loop.)
There is so much data to support this that it’s not even a debate anymore.
But it’s not about facts and data. It should be about tone.
I’m saying it’s time to go on offense, not stay on defense, when it comes to email’s value. We should speak with strength and confidence — with attitude and swagger, even — and not fall back on our need to justify ourselves.
Maybe we should even say the things about social media that are being said about email. (Even though, of course, social media isn’t going away anytime soon either.)
If we’re lucky, maybe then the email deathwatches will end.
Things may change, and new communication channels may be created, but email is here to stay.
And to all of you people saying the opposite? Please, just shut up.
What do you think? Should we end the email deathwatches? Will you do your part? Start by tweeting this article. Then share your thoughts in the comments section below.