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Email: Do People Really Read it?

About a week before SXSW 2004 the very last vertebrae in the proverbial camel’s back of Ms. Jen’s patience was broken. I had since 1997 used “jenhanen@earthlink.net” as my primary email and by last summer I was getting over 150 spams per day and less than 20 real emails a day. I signed up for Knowspam and the flow trickled to a stop. Thank God.
But, and this is a big But, spammers and other nefarious sub-human cretins were using the email address and the well known Earthlink outgoing SMTP to send all manner of crap to all manner of folk. I was constantly told that I was spamming folk or sending them viruses, when Norton had professed my computer virus free and I had not sent such crap to my friends.
I knew since at least 1999 that Earthlink’s mail servers did not require password authentification for outgoing mail as I had expressed my frustration to Earthlink tech folk about this in the past, but I was up to my ears in spammers posing as me. Thus, I cancelled the account after seven years. Bye. Bye. Bye.
I signed up with a new primary account and then emailed everyone I knew the week before SXSW (probably should have waited until after). Everyone: family, friends, colleagues, clients, bands, publicists, etc. Everyone. In the email, I simply detailed out my new contact info: email, snail mail, and phone number.
Funny thing that I have discovered in the six weeks since quite a few folks did not read the email or read it half way and stopped. I have received several angry phone calls about my lack of an email address from people who received my announcement email. I have had bold or sheepish confessions from friends who read a bit, did not take down the new contact info, and then deleted the email but are now mad at me for not having a working email…
I am flummoxed. What am I supposed to do? Send an email a week until over 1,000 people get it right or read the email all the way? Call everyone? Hello?
To me the irony is that I frequently think that I have too much open contact information out and about in the world. My phone number is listed in the white pages, my phone number and address is easily accessible to a Whois search, I have several listed emails and contact forms here and at Barflies.net. So, why the anger and the frustration from my contactees towards me?
The bigger question is why don’t people read their email? Why do they only read a sentence or two and then delete? This is not the first time this has happened, as barflies.net writers regularly confess to me that they did not read an important email all the way and then call to ask what is going on. Has there been any studies on people’s behavior when reading email?
Even bigger question: have you read this far into the post? Or did you stop after the second sentence? If you read this far, do you usually read all the way through your emails? If yes, are you a reader of blogs and books? Frustrated Jen’s want to know.
Side corollary to this Email Frustration is Anil Dash’s suggestion on people paying for one to promptly read their email.

Example: I get emails from bands and promoters wanting me to post their upcoming shows at the Barflies.net SoCal calendar. I have a caveat at the Barflies stating that we are an all volunteer, no dough website and that it might take up to two weeks to get listed on the calendar and sometimes even longer than that.
Even so, I get a good two emails a month from musicians who are either flat out rude about their perception of my lack of attention to them or they ask if they have offended me or if I was annoyed at them due to the fact that they have sent four emails in the last two days about their show a month from now and why have I not posted it? I usually reply back that all volunteer, no dough websites have to first work to pay the rent before they can go through a queue of emails to make the calendar every week or two or three that is free to the public.
Most of the emails are just inquiries but the rude ones have made me start considering charging. Yep, $5 a pop for a listing to be posted to the calendar within one week of receiving the listing. I argue that would be worth our time to charge the rude emailers and put the $ aside for server fees. Julie Wanda has told me that this is a bad idea as it sets a bad precedent.
When Anil raised the question of how does a busy, internet professional or business person deal with hundreds of emails a day, it made me think…

One Response to “Email: Do People Really Read it?”

  1. Kris

    hi hon, I read the blog all the way through! I read everything all the way through always for the reasons you cited. I am not THAT lazy.