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BizReport : Email Marketing : February 09, 2011

Email - a life-stage choice?

Industry commentators often jump on reports of the decline of email use among today's youth and ring the death knell for the communication tool. But is email really on its last legs or is it just that teens find other communication tools better fit their needs?

by Helen Leggatt

email_icon.gifRecent figures from comScore appear to back up doom and gloom email predictions. Their 2010 U.S. Digital Year in Review, an annual report on the trends of the past year and their implications for the coming year, reveals that overall email usage dropped 8% during 2010.

Ok, that's not so extreme. Until you look at how much email use declined among those aged between 12 and 17 - 59%.

That's right, teens appear to be dropping email like a hot potato. So what are they using instead?

Surprise, surprise - social networks.

Facebook, which now accounts for 10% of page views in the U.S. and swelled its user-base by 153.9 million last year, upped the ante by launching its "Gmail Killer" messaging system last November, giving its 500million+ user-base a Facebook email address. Mark Zuckerberg even predicted that email would not be a modern communication tool.

Other social networking sites, such as Twitter and LinkedIn, also contributed to the overall increase in social media use, both adding millions of users during 2010. MySpace, however, experienced a 26% drop-off in usage.

But do the results of comScore's study really stamp email's passport out of popularity? I don't believe so. What I think the figures are saying is that teens don't have a use for it because other messaging systems better fit their communication needs. That doesn't mean they won't adopt and increase email use as they progress through life.

Earlier this year a survey by youth insight service YouthBeat also suggested email is slowly fading away as a communication tool. It concluded texting is how tweens and teens prefer to stay in touch, but that they do have a need for email in their lives.

"They're more likely to have an e-mail address to give them access to social networking sites like Facebook than to treat it as a home base for communication," said Amy Henry, VP of Youth Services for C&R Research of which YouthBeat is a service. "

"Interestingly, many maintain e-mail addresses for communicating with teachers about assignments," she added.

Tags: email, social networks

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  • Don't forget that just about every social networking site requires an email address to sign up. That was the original prestige associated with Facebook; you had to have an .edu address before you could even create an account. While younger Internet users may use social networking sites to communicate with each other, email is usually how they reach out to their teachers and employers. They may not actively use their email accounts, but the accounts still exist and I suspect they will become more important as users get older.



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