Feb 16 2005

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.