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The prevailing ideology in the world of email has historically been that spam is the biggest threat to email productivity.

A recent 2012 study titled “The Economics of Spam” by Justin M. Rao (Microsoft Research) and David H. Reiley (Google Inc.) estimates that American firms and consumers experience costs of almost $20 billion annually due to spam. Other studies have estimated the costs even higher closer to the $50 billion mark.

One of the big factors that goes into the cost of spam is lost productivity. If an employee spends 20 minutes a day weeding out spam from their inbox, and assuming an average hourly rate of $23.82 (Bureau of Labor Statistics, Feb. 2013), the daily cost is $7.86. With 52 work weeks, this results in $2,043.60 per year.

However, with advances in spam filtering technology, that number is expected to drop rapidly and a new enemy to email productivity has emerged.

The new biggest problem: Long Emails

We live in a society of 140 character tweets, 30 second video clips, quick SMS text messages, and fast status updates. Yet despite the global move towards brevity, emails can still be very long. This is the new economic challenge.

Using the same calculations as before, we can see the direct effects this plague of long emails has in terms of productivity and dollars. A poll by Elite Email reveals that the average employee reports spending 90 minutes per day reading through long emails. This works out to a daily cost of $28.58 and a huge annual cost of $7,430.80. This clearly highlights that long emails pose a far greater threat than spam.

The top ISPs of the world are jumping on this problem right away before it spirals out of control.

Google (gmail), Yahoo, Microsoft (outlook/hotmail) and AOL have come together to form a new task force named U.S.A.P. (Unified Short Attention Span).

These big four mail providers are not wasting any time and have already proposed new limits coming into effect on January 1, 2014.

Starting in 2014, all emails will be limited to 500 words. Any words over that limit will not be displayed.

The U.S.A.P. organization said, in its official statement:

In today’s economic climate we can no longer afford to play a part in decimating the productivity of the average employee and forcing businesses to incur this unfair cost brought about by long emails. We are going to reign in this problem now and impose harsh limits to get things back on track. We believe these new limits will be welcomed by email users globally and celebrated by business owners who can capitalize on big productivity savings.

As of January 1, 2014, anyone composing a new email will see an alert when they exceed the 500 word email limit.

Gmail: 500 Word Email Limit

Screenshot from Gmail enforcing new 500 word limit.

The new restrictions have received a lot of support from the internet community. While many recognize the limit as harsh, the global consensus is that desperate times call for desperate measures and this is precisely what we need.

Is your organization going to be ready to work within the new 500 word limit?

Many consultants have started running seminars at larger organizations in an effort to treat the condition known as “digital verbal diarrhea”, which is the key driver behind long-winded emails.

One consultant we interviewed said:

Digital verbal diarrhea is a serious issue. But, the first step is admitting you have the problem. Once you’ve come to terms with that, we can begin to treat the issue at its core. The ultimate goal is to have you writing short emails and never relapse into the never-ending scrolling emails that plague so many people right now.

At Elite Email, we firmly believe that these new restrictions will usher in a new era of responsible emailing that will boost productivity in one big swoop. We fully support the initiative by U.S.A.P. as a big step forward in global digital communication.

Furthermore… Happy April Fools’ Day! :)


This past weekend I was browsing through a Break.com picture gallery (…very funny stuff!) when I stumbled upon a really interesting “Join Our Mailing List” type advertisement.

I’m a big fan of asking people in-store to join your mailing list as I believe that can be a key growth driver of your mailing list (in addition to online signups from your website, Facebook page, etc).

Over the years, I’ve seen all sorts of incentives to get people to join your mailing list. Often there are ads to be entered in a draw for a certain prize, to win a free lunch, etc, etc.

But, this Godfather’s Pizza add puts a whole new spin on it…

Godfather's Pizza: "Join Our Mailing List" Ad

I’m usually the first one to praise the amazing limitless possibilities of email marketing, but in this case, I think things may have been pushed too far. I think I can admit that where email marketing falls short is in delivering you a “free medium pizza by email”. I wonder if that pizza via email would be hot when it gets to me? Can I order other toppings on this ‘pizza by email’ or is a basic cheese pizza the only one that transmits nicely through cyberspace?

Let this be a lesson to everyone…
Driving mailing list growth in-store = GREAT!
Offering to send a pizza by email = REQUIRES MORE THOUGHT (and maybe a new flyer!)

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