Even as consumers shift more and more of their daily tasks and chores to the Web, one famous form of online communication is losing its luster. E-mail, that staple of your daily work and social life, is withering from a combination of excessive spam and the onslaught of “instant” messaging services for the attention-challenged.
Is email really “dead”? Maybe not, but its value — at least in my life — has seriously diminished over the past two years. I routinely delete most email from my own university unless I see a compelling subject line. And those are rare. Sometimes really important messages get buried in the digital avalanche. I’ve missed a few meetings as a result, but nothing critical as yet.
Sorry, mailbox full. This morning, a note from Kent State’s email administrator tells me 10 students on the “KSU PR Majors” listserv aren’t getting our messages. This means they may have missed important information and advice from their faculty. Same reason for each recipient: Mailbox Full.
When I confront students about the problem, most say, “Oh, I never check my Kent email.” Let’s hope their professors or the registrar don’t have anything important to communicate, because it’s not getting through to a good many people.
Grown-ups are at fault, too. At my neighborhood association meeting last night, the secretary asked board members if we could please avoid doing votes via email. Seems that half of the board members don’t respond promptly; some don’t respond at all.
Me, too. While I’m at the computer, I monitor my Kent State email constantly, but it’s the last thing I check when I boot up in the morning. Email comes after Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, FriendFeed, Flicker, PROpenMic, and my 3 blogs. Email isn’t “dead” for me, but it’s not a priority. My secondary emails (yahoo and gmail) are a once-a-day visit if that.
Sidenote: My email program pinged 12 times during the first draft of this post. I ignored it.
What happens when it really matters? Given that email is so easy to ignore or delete, I’m really concerned that my employer, Kent State, is now sending student tuition bills in digital form only, and exclusively via the university email accounts that so many students gnore. A lot of those bills will almost certainly go unpaid as a result. BTW, they announced this new policy via email.
Email billing saves a lot of money and maybe even a few trees. It’s the right thing to do. Heretofore, we snailmailed more than 30,000 tuition bills every semester. That’s simply inefficient.
But will it work? Students who do check their email accounts — and a majority do — will have to select this important billing note from dozens of other messages the administration sends. Most of those messages hold little value for the average student. It’s the new form of broadcasting, and the students, like the rest of us, tend to tune out.
So we’re headed for a PR problem here, though it should be minor and short-lived. Students who don’t pay their bills will incur significant late fees (typically $100) and risk seeing their course registrations for the next semester canceled. So students, you’ll have to start paying attention to the email stream to find the 1 or 2 messages that really matter. Sorry, but there’s no other way.
Or is there? How does your organization break through the email glut? Post your ideas below.