On the Perseverance of E-Mail
Technology continues to evolve and get better. I remember when I got my first digital camera, thinking that it was the most amazing thing I’ve ever used. It shot at an abysmal 1.3 megapixels and had absolutely no optical zoom. It had virtually no controls in terms of adjusting the aperture or shutter, there were no different shooting modes and the preview screen was about the size of a postage stamp. But I thought it was incredible, because I no longer had to fumble around with film.

These days, most smartphones have some pretty amazing cameras and they come with all sorts of extra bonus features. The Samsung Galaxy S4 is a prime example of this with its 13MP shooter and various camera modes like “Eraser” and “Drama.” And we needed forget about the rapid evolution of point-and-shoots, compact interchangeable lens camera systems and digital SLRs. Technology advances very quickly and what we may have used only a few years ago starts to look incredibly archaic.

But strangely, there is one technology that has somehow survived the ages. It may have had its changes over the years, but it remains fundamentally the same at its very core and that’s e-mail.

Think about it. One of the earliest uses of the Internet was to send individual messages from one person to another. I remember when I’d go to the local public library, dial into the “telnet” and use the text-based interface to “check my e-mail.” And even though I moved to desktop clients like Outlook somewhere in between, I’ve long since gone back to “web-based” e-mail again in the form of Gmail and other providers.

Sending messages and receiving information over the web has certainly gone through its fair share of iterations and evolution. We had some really crude social networks back in the day and we’d talk with friends there. We engaged in mIRC and we used ICQ to chat with people. We’d log into random chat rooms and inevitably ask of the other participants about their A/S/L. We used RSS to stay up to date with our favorite websites, but with the death of Google Reader, many have questioned the relevance of RSS anymore. And as great as social media may be for surmising the zeitgeist of the day, it’s not complete. And messages easily get lost, ignored or forgotten in the mix.

That’s one of the biggest reasons why e-mail is still here. Companies can continue to do their marketing through more traditional channels like buying ad space on different websites and tossing up those ad banners. They can continue to do their marketing through a Facebook page and launching different contests. These are all valuable strategies, but they can sometimes be insufficient, especially if the company’s budget doesn’t exactly allow for the largest and most consistent of media buys.

This naturally lends itself to a discussion of the rise of Internet business, small business and home-based business too. The Internet has really leveled the playing field, so even if you’re a “solopreneur” or you’re “just” a freelance writer (like me), you have the opportunity to really grow your business and achieve some success. And it’s all far more accessible and affordable than it has been in the past.

You want to have your own website for your business? Hosting is cheap, domains are cheap, and you can get everything set up with something like WordPress in a matter of minutes? Want to keep a customer list and keep reaching that audience on a periodic basis? Email marketing has never been more affordable and easy to understand. This is regardless of the size of your budget or your level of technical expertise.

When I first started writing on the Internet way back in 1999, it was in the form of an e-mail newsletter. I maintained the “subscriber” list manually. Later on, that newsletter evolved into a Geocities site, which eventually evolved in the WordPress-based blog that I have today. But e-mail is still there and it’s almost like the technology has come full circle. In fact, even though I have a blog with an RSS feed and various social media profiles, you can still subscribe to that feed via email.


Yes, it’s true that technology continues to evolve and that continues to be at the heart of my livelihood, but there will always be a need to reach a wide audience on a consistent basis where that audience actually reads the message. And, for the foreseeable future, e-mail will continue to serve that role… among the many others that it also serves.

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