A recent MediaPost commentary by Per Lofgren, director for EuroContactPool, asked the question, "Is email marketing next for extinction?"
The issue is based on Lofgren's realization that youth have moved away from email, preferring instead to communicate with one another via text, social networking sites, and web messaging. In fact, Lofgren notes that while the iPhone is often criticized for its mediocre support of email, the fact is that these devices are especially convenient for SMS, Facebook, and MySpace mobile applications - perfect for today's teens who would prefer to communicate that way anyway.
Of course, this raises questions about the efficacy of email marketing, a topic that we're exploring in Jacobs Media's Tech Poll V, which launches in just a few days. By tracking listener behavior in these mega web surveys, we continue to learn about changing habits, new devices, and preferred platforms. A lot has changed in five years.
It's another reason why research matters - and the lack of it right now in radio is going to make our problems worse. When Arbitron commissioned us to implement the ethnographic research study in 2007 that became "The Bedroom Project," we quickly knew we were learning some special things. When one of our teen-aged pretest respondents remarked, "Email is for old people," it was one of those "aha moments." Of course, the entire study played out this way, as many of the participants echoed that conclusion. Way back two years ago, you could see that most of our respondents were using email for school or business purposes, but favored texting and sites like Facebook and MySpace for their personal communications. As Lofgren notes, these same teens who are breaking away from email will be joining the workforce in just a few years, and they'll be changing the communication habits of America.
As the financial crisis grinds on, and companies try to do more with less, radio is falling farther behind. If any medium could use some bona fide audience research and guidance right now, it's radio. I believe our Tech Surveys will continue to provide pieces of that data, but there are still many more questions than answers.