The Boy Who Cried Wolf

According to a Pew Internet & American Life Project study, the volume of email spam is growing, although fewer people say it’s a “big problem” for them. The study found, however, that:

Spam continues to degrade the integrity of email. 55% of email users have lost trust in email because of spam.”

My take: The “lost trust” claim is a case of over-reacting.

Did consumers “lose trust” in mail because of direct mail? Did we “lose trust” in the telephone because of telemarketing? Did we “lose trust” in the television when advertising cut 30-minute programs down to 23 minutes? Are we losing trust in the mobile channel with the advent of cellphone advertising? No.

Arguably, spam has impacted the effectiveness of email as a marketing tool. But that’s not what the study is reporting — it’s looking at the consumer’s perspective. And they could care less if it’s an effective marketing channel.

What we need here is context:

  • Has email lost trust relative to other communication channels?
  • Has this lost trust resulted in behavioral changes?
  • Are the 55% different (demographically, behaviorally) from the 45%?

The Pew study found, in fact, that the percentage of Internet users using email in 2007 was unchanged from the 2003 level. And that the percentage of email users who said that spam made them less trusting of mail declined from a high of 62% in 2004.

Email’s loss of integrity? Just a case of the Pew who cried wolf.

Technorati Tags: , , , , ,


3 thoughts on “The Boy Who Cried Wolf

  1. Pingback: 10,000 Marshmallows Daily Links 2007-06-20 - 10,000 Marshmallows - Marketing Accountability: How to eat 10,000 Marshmallows

  2. What an odd conclusion for them to make. I know it is purely anecdotal but email, IM and cell phone (including text messaging) are my primary means of communication.

    I havent written a personal letter in over 10 years. The only thing I could say about this Pew study is that I now have a junk email folder that I check periodically. I have to do this as I get about 300 spam emails a day from my 10 separate email addresses. I took such care in setting up my filters that very little spam gets through.

    Would I say that my trust is diminished? I guess I would have to trust email in the first place to begin to distrust it. Having worked in IT and technology for 15 years I know that my email stands a better chance on getting through to its intended recipient than a written letter (especially with my penmanship). Just by the shear volume of emails I write in a day – the odds are in my favor – not to mention the cost benefit.

    I guess my main question is – who did they ask?

  3. Pingback: It’s Not That They Don’t Have Brains « Marketing ROI: Whims from Ron Shevlin

Comments are closed.