E-Newsletters Breed Like Rabbits

There's little doubt that e-mail newsletters procreate.

Theres little doubt that e-mail newsletters procreate.

The evidence is right on my hard drive.

A week or so ago, the cleanup effort began. About 20 minutes of creating filters to transfer readily identifiable newsletters to a separate in-box for the constantly arriving missives accomplished little. That only got me through newsletters that started with A, B or C. There was not enough time or battery juice to try and work through the remaining 23 letters worth.

Its not like my mail program wasnt already rife with filters for newsletters. The normal practice is to create a box for a newsletter that you ask for.

Maybe I signed up for the IDM Update, but I couldnt even begin to tell you what IDM stands for. Maybe I need to know that Management Matters, but just who is [email protected]? Maybe someone snuck a look at my stock portfolio and thinks I need a Trader Web site to help me get socked again in 2001. But surely, no one thinks Im at a loss looking for a trend. My in-box is choking on them. But thanks anyway, TrendWatch Partners. Ill check out your latest Fast Fact one of these days. When I have the time.

There, of course, is the rub. Magazines stack up on my desk all the time, unread. Which saddens me, because I love magazines. Youre reading one that is close to my heart. Yet if I read one or two cover-to-cover in a week, Im a really happy camper these days. Most go in a stack that is always ready to grab and go: My "I want to read this one" pile.

With e-mail, theres no similar effect. Either you open a newsletter when you first see it, or you dont. Never do I find myself scrolling back, looking for one.

Theres the challenge. Each subject line has to be snappier than the last, because the din is getting intense. If you thought Vince McMahon has gone over the top with the Extreme Football League, just wait for another couple years of e-mail newsletter competition to unfold. Im still deathly afraid of "The Job That Wouldnt Die," fearful that Im going to be inundated with more edification like the "Social History of the Telephone," and feel shot through the heart by the outfit that flat-out declared, "Content is not King." As if all the successful subscription models for these newsletters didnt scare me enough.

But theres a clear explanation for why e-mail newsletters are proliferating more rapidly than Sonys next line of robotic rabbits. According to List-Universe.com, e-mail newsletters are more cost-effective than advertising banners. Readers click on ad messages more frequently, and the cost per click is lower.

The "Email List Owner and Ezine Publisher Resource Network," as it describes itself, argues its case for electronic newsletters this way: An e-mail list may cost $200, but if the click-through rate is 3.5 percent, its a better deal than an ad banner, for which the average click-through rate is now down to less than half of one percent. The cost per click for e-mail is around $6, while banners are past $7.60, List-Universe.com maintains.

"Weve found that e-mail newsletter return on investment is often more than 10 times that of Web site banners," said Todd Kellner, managing editor at List-Universe.com.

So expect e-mail newsletters to be the next big wave of Internet fervor, if there still is such a thing. Heres a way to deliver everything thats new in a Web site in one handy package. Why visit the Web site, if the Web site will come to you? Just check out a link when you are motivated to; no more surfing required.

Of course, all good things must come to an end. Some day, there will be so many e-mail newsletters in mailboxes everywhere, that theyll lose their effect. No amount of screaming or catchy subject-line writing will suffice. The click-through rates will decline.

In the meantime, all you can do from a practical standpoint is sign off the mailing lists.

Or practice real e-mail hygiene: Change your e-mail address, altogether. You may have to.