End of an era (2)

Less epochal than Apple v Apple, but still interesting. The Washington Post has published an email newsletter/reminder on tech issues for some years (12, in fact; I’ve only subscribed for a little over half of that). It started as a tie-in with a monthly insert, and has changed over the years. Now, it’s a column, a list of links, information on upcoming webchats (which the Post does an awful lot of), and so on. But today, they say this:

Despite our best efforts to make this e-mail project fail, it took off. People signed up in such high numbers that we soon had to move it to a commercial Listserv system. When Fast Forward transformed into a weekly item in The Post, the mailing became a weekly occurrence, too. We changed the name to “Fast Friday” before moving it over to washingtonpost.com’s mail system in 2002. At its peak, we had more than 150,000 subscribers.

In the past few years, however, that number stopped growing despite our continued efforts. My theory is that e-mail just doesn’t work as well as it used to. Between spam and the general increase in traffic, everybody’s inboxes are overflowing these days. The last thing many people want is yet another round of incoming messages.

I do challenge the idea that email is dead – especially given the small cost of sending out an email. Yes, spam is a problem – but hopefully not the end of the world. And failing to increase numbers is often a sign of saturation rather than stagnation, especially as the new generation of 20-somethings – those who have been online in huge numbers since their teens – reaches the stage of being (relatively) serious….and like me, have been on email lists for some years. Not to mention the convenience of downloadable email as opposed to still-imperfect Web grabbing, for those that travel in wifi free zones.

But I do see the way that the Post would prefer to go the blog/RSS route. And so, they launch Fasterforward as a replacement. We’ll see how it goes.

Sorry for problems with reading this post, they should all be fixed now. Blame meteorites.

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