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Email Subjects are Irrelevant, Only Sender Matters

An email comes from you mom, your sister, your BFF. Does it matter what the subject line says?

No, you open it right up.

I suspect there are some commercial organizations you feel the same about. In my house, it’s DailyCandy, BabyCenter, Joyent, Amazon, our insurance agent, accountant, etc.

Any one of those organizations could send out message without a subject line and I can still guarantee they’d be read.

In light of this and a marketing conversation about subject lines and open rates, I asked around which item matters more. Sender came back nearly unanimous.

Makes me wonder if the customers requiring persuasion only by an arduously-crafted subject line are worth the trouble. They obviously don’t trust the sender – and a single email isn’t going to change that. An overall improved customer experience (including ignoring them) might start that process.

In addition – how many of the subject lines in your inbox right now are meaningful and accurately reflect the message body?

I checked Gmail, Yahoo Mail, Mail.app, and it’s not obvious how to remove the Subject column in any of them. Best I could do was in Mail.app – move the Subject column to far right and then expand the width of the other columns to push it out of sight. We’ll try this for a week and see how it feels.

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It Only Makes Sense if You Only Sell Ads

“Except for one thing. There’s no ringtone for sale. Just like there were no bathrobes a couple weeks ago. Or Dundee statues before that. Or Timberlake boxes. Or Timberlake box song ringtones” – Doodledee

Heck, TikiBar TV understands this:

“Rather than charging a micropayment for your show, sell fans a nice fancy mug!” – Dave Slusher

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If Not Traffic and Page Views, What Do We Measure?

Over lunch with a local start up, the conversation moved towards Digg, encouraging ‘Digg’ing, and generally putting more guarantees around getting ‘Dugg’. While it’s great for exposure, it akin to unloading a bus fleet of tourists into your house. Sure, some of them may stick around and have a beer but, is the line to the bathroom worth it?

I’m not confident traffic and page views are actually the metrics worth tracking. Digg or otherwise. MySpace has lots of page views – because it’s such a poorly designed site. Conversely, Digg, MySpace, Flickr, YouTube all have a strong level of engagement.

Engagement. How do we measure engagement?
Number of posts, comments, “friendships”, a given member contributes? Maybe. Feels closer.

Experience has shown me it’s easier to sell to the same customer with each consecutive sale. With that in mind, the idea is to create a structure that supports multiple sales/transactions (subscriptions are the easy answer). If overhead is low enough, it’s conceivable that sustainable success could be attained with a fairly small number of paying customers.

Oh, on a related note – I predict 6 months before Digg is replaced by something else, if only because it will be over run by spammers.

Related Elsewhere:
Deep Jive Interests: Digg’s Failure: When “No Moderation” Doesn’t Work
Deep Jive Interests: Digg’s Editors Show Their Invisible Hand (Again)

Micro Persuasion: Fake News Story Games Thousands of Digg Users

UPDATE 11 Dec 2006

“…digg users are not valuable for a site that relies on advertising clicks to generate revenue, since they drop by for a cursory look, then head off looking for another distraction.” – Jason Clarke

Jason continues:

“But digg users tend to be those that will sign up for almost any beta product or service, then bore of it quickly and abandon it for the next big thing.”

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Measuring What You Can’t Automate

“[I] think how much better it would be if we could just measure how much people care.” – Dave Slusher

Like Dave, I don’t understand the fascination with measuring downloads. Well, I take that back – I understand it for producers trying to woo advertisers. I don’t understand why advertisers would want to base their ad buy on download stats. Downloads don’t equal listeners, fans, or impressions.

Requests for downloads are not full downloads.
Full downloads are not plays.
Plays are not listens.
Listens are not engaged.
Engaged are not customers.

And as Dave points out, download requests can be automated.

Kris Smith’s CastLock application provides unique feed urls and could be spun out to deliver a custom, complimentary ad (or other) message to individual subscribers – based on some measure of engagement (i.e. some bastardized quantification of caring).

As early-stage as it is, it still provides more useful metrics than download stats. Mapping individual listeners to customer purchases still needs some work, but the gap would be shorter.

The real question is – what’s the Effort/Engagement ratio of a publication like a podcast or weblog. I’m glad you’re reading this, and I’m glad you know who I am. That’s return enough for me.

ELSEWHERE:

“Any website that attempts to improve time spent on every page (or pageviews for that matter) is just wasting time. What matters is intent. Permission. Action. Retention. Likelihood that ideas get spread. Clickthroughs.” – Seth Godin

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Building Communities is Building Commerce

Lots of conversations this weeks about building online communities: forums, weblog networks, mailing list, what have you. All with organizations having a vested, commercial interest in growing a community.

While they expressed skepticism about a community gathering around their commercial interest, I wasn’t concerned.

  1. It’s already happening.
    A group of people somewhere are already talking about your products. Really, they are.
  2. It’s in everyone’s best interest
    It’s in Corvette’s best interest to have a fan club. It’s in Apple’s best interest to have support forums. It lowers direct support costs while increasing passion. It’s in the customers best interest to show off their expertise and passions (perhaps getting time commerce as well).
  3. In many cases, a community with a for-profit business behind it is more maintainable (see #2).
    Those with a horse-in-the-race are of course have the most to gain by a growing community.

I’m less concerned about a church v state separation in these communities. Those involved will determine the right balance – and it may change over time.

The more important bit is being a person talking to other people rather than a Marketer or a Salesman talking to Consumers.