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Is E-mail Destined to Disappear?

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September 04, 2012

Is E-mail Destined to Disappear?

By Gary Kim, Contributing Editor


With voice mail usage declining, and use of instant, social and text messaging growing, some would argue that e-mail is destined for decline. But others would argue the volume of e-mail still is growing, while some might argue e-mail offers a messaging format distinct enough that easily can coexist with instant, text or social messaging.


According to the Radicati Group, 144.8 billion e-mails are sent every day, and that number is projected to rise to 192.2 billion in 2016. There are about 3.4 billion e-mail accounts worldwide, Radicati said, with three-quarters owned by individual consumers.

The youngest users of e-mail, however, have an enormous number of different methods to choose from to communicate and many of them prefer these methods for most communications. A comScore (News - Alert) report on 2010 digital trends suggested that total web e-mail usage was down eight percent in 2010, with a 59 percent decline in use among people between the ages of 12 to 17.Usage was also down one percent among 18 to 24 year olds, 18 percent among 25 to 35 year olds, eight percent among 35 to 44 year olds and 12 percent among the 45 to 54 segment of the audience.

But usage climbed 22 percent among 55 to 64 year olds and 28 percent among those 65 and older.

Also, e-mail usage appears to be shifting, as more e-mail is used on mobile devices, according to Return Path. E-mail opened on mobile devices increased 34 percent from April 2011 to September 2011, for example, including e-mail within a native e-mail client, on a web browser, or within an e-mail app.

An increase in mobile e-mail usage does correlate with a declining use of Webmail and desktop e-mail programs, which fell 11 percent and nine percent from April 2011 to September 2011.

So why would anyone continue to use e-mail in the age of social media? Perhaps the need to reach a specific audience, such as project co-workers, rather than a more diffuse set of recipients as those receiving a simple status update on a social network.

In other words, e-mail works well for “person to person” or person to workgroup communications, where a social post is a “one to many” message. To be sure, the differences between text, social, instant messaging and e-mail have narrowed over the years.

Instant messaging tends to occur in real time, but the other messaging formats tend to be used in a non-real-time mode. 

And, in fact, there is some evidence that e-mail usage is growing again.  During June 2012, says comScore, 397.2 million Europeans went online to use e-mail, for an average of 25.9 hours.

The June report, which includes Internet usage in 49 European markets aggregated into the European region and individual reporting on 18 markets, also highlights that web-based e-mail is still popular among European Internet users.

In fact, the number of European web-based e-mail users grew by 14 percent over the past year to 276 million, while total penetration increases by 3.7 percentage points.

In Europe, 276.5 million people accessed sites like Hotmail and Google (News - Alert) Gmail using their computer, equaling to a 69.5 percent reach among the Internet audience above 15 years of age.

The United Kingdom had the highest market penetration of web-based e-mail usage at 82.7 percent with the total number of users increasing nine percent versus last year. Among the top 10 e-mail markets in Europe, Ireland had the fastest growing audience (up 23 percent), followed by Russia (up 21 percent).Nearly 70 percent of the European Internet audience accessed e-mail sites during June 2012, a growth rate of 3.7 percentage points over the past year.

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Edited by Brooke Neuman







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