Email Is the New Snail Mail. What will Newspapers do?

April 20, 2010

I’m frustrated these days. Here’s why:

My three sons—ages twenty-one, eighteen, and fifteen—don’t use email. I’ll send them emails about a family event a week ahead of time and not get a response until afterward. At first, I just thought that maybe my kids were blowing me off (this can happen to parents of teens and young adults), but then I began to notice a pattern arise out of this madness. So like any good citizen, I decided to perform a “scientific” test.

I wrote the following email on Friday March 26th at 1:46 pm which stated:

Subject: This is a test to see if you use email.

Dear Kids,

If you respond to this email, I will pay you $20 cash.

Love, Dad

By offering a cash reward, I could be assured that my results would not be spoiled by laziness on the part of the reader. And the results where just as I expected: the younger the kid, the slower the response.

My twenty-one-year old responded in just over an hour via his Black Berry at 2:57 with “That would be great thanks.” I saw him pulling into my driveway a couple days later as I was heading out to work and slipped the twenty through his driver side window.

My eighteen-year-old responded four and a half days later with “I do read my email once a week so pay up.”

As for the fifteen-year-old, I have yet to hear from him as of the writing of this post. However, I did overhear my oldest son telling him that he could make a “quick twenty bucks” if he was willing to split it fifty-fifty.

Email is fading quickly from use among the generation of “millenials,” people born between roughly 1984 and 2000. These kids and young adults simply don’t use email anymore. Notice that even my oldest son, who responded quickly, did so from his Black Berry, not actually via email. And these millenials are the people who we will be marketing local news to in the near future. This being the case, it is important to understand just how quickly the technology gap between them and traditional media is forming. Even “new media” like email are fading from use.

How can we reach people with local news who prefer to use media which are not one, but two or three, technological generations ahead of the old medium of print?

Now I know that my methods in this inquiry were not completely up to scientific standards, so I decided to create an expanded test using the free Survey Monkey tool. (No, I’m not offering $20 to anyone in the world who responds to my emails, sorry.) But this time, I catered the test specifically to questions regarding news and the consumption of information.

The survey contains just four short questions:

1) Do you subscribe to a newspaper?  Yes or no.
2) In the past month, How many times have you read a newspaper?
3) How old are you?
4) How do you get information about current events?

I geared the survey specifically towards millenials, so that the oldest option for question number three is “25 years old.” After creating the survey, I asked my three sons to post it on each of their facebook pages. I’m planning on waiting a couple of weeks for the data to stream in. But as soon as this happens, I’ll publish the results of the survey so that we can all see if they are consistent with what I’ve found so far.

One last note: my wife was upset that I didn’t send her an email with a cash reward. (I knew that she would read it since she’s not a millenial.) However, I can give her the credit for coming up with the great title for this post.

Think outside the newsstand,

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