Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Article No One Will Read

Wow. I just had a wake up call, maybe even an epiphany. While this may not be a completely green topic, it does refer to email, so unless you are printing your emails (and why would you do that?), I guess we can consider this a sustainable article.

Maybe I am the loner, but when I receive an email, and decide to open it, I generally read the whole message. These are from friends, family and known business associates. I do the same when I receive an email newsletter. After all, these are publications I subscribed to, so most of the content would be of interest to me. After sending out an important email to my friends and family, I found out that I am most definitely in the minority.

I sent out an email to about 60 people close to me, explaining an important topic, and asking their help in performing a 2 minute task. I ....wait a minute, are you still there? OK - I had to resend it 3 times so far, each time, re-explaining in different ways, as dozens of otherwise intelligent and computer savvy people were hopelessly lost. I finally had to build and send an instructional video.

Most writers of emails and newsletters track by Open rate. That’s totally irrelevant, because statistics and research tell me that MOST PEOPLE WON’T EVEN READ THIS. That’s right. And it’s because of a newly diagnosed syndrome, called Email Attention Deficit Disorder (EADD).

Due to information overload, it is estimated that there are over 2 billion people with this syndrome. Symptoms are:

• Simply scanning the first word or two of each sentence or paragraph;
• If the first word does not catch their attention, they skip to the next paragraph;
• If the paragraph has more than a few lines, they don’t even bother scanning;
• The average EADD sufferer spends less than 51 seconds scanning an email.

What does catch their attention?

Highlighted important words – in red
• Bulleted topics
• Short, easy to manage paragraphs
• Videos – it’s easier than reading

What are the consequences of EADD?

• Sufferers generally miss the important points of the story
• If there is a task required in the email, ironically, they spend more time trying to perform it
• Very little knowledge is gained
• Increases confusion on topic

DO YOU HAVE EADD? If you are still reading, then you’re probably OK.

Pharmaceutical companies are ramping up research on this affliction and I’m sure we’ll soon see TV commercials to “Ask Your Doctor” for the latest and greatest new drugs…I don’t suppose they will have an email campaign.

OK, friend the Doctor just called. EADD is not an “official” syndrome….I just made that up. But the statistics and “symptoms” are real. Keep these in mind when writing your emails and newsletters and you will get more Opens and even more importantly, more people understanding your content.

Keith Winn is the VP Marketing/COO of GreenProfit Solutions, Inc. which assists businesses in becoming environmentally responsible. You may view their website at or e-mail Keith at [email protected] .