The Reckoning of My 2008 Unpredictions

Matt Blumberg
By Matt Blumberg
CEO & Chairman

Last year I thought it would be easier to make a list of things that WOULDN’T happen in 2008. Well, that turns out to be 60% true. Below see my original list of “unpredictions” as published on January 2, 2008 alongside an accounting of how I fared.

1. Email won’t die! Despite at least 38 articles which will be published during 2008 predicting the imminent demise of our beloved channel, there will be more people using it, more companies using it, and more emails sent in 2008 than in 2007.

Thumbs up: Email certainly didn’t die. It remains a strong, vibrant and interesting channel.

2. Multichannel retailers won’t send out more email per subscriber in 2008 than they did in 2007. The best ones have already gotten the idea that less is more – or at least that less CAN BE more if segmentation, targeting, and user preference centers are done properly.

Thumbs down: Segmentation didn’t increase appreciably this year. Too many email marketers continued the batch-and-blast trend that began back in 199something. It makes me a little sad – this was an optimistic prediction.

3. Spammers won’t take over the email universe. Although big waves of spam will continue to burst forth every few months with new techniques appearing simultaneously, marketers and ISPs will continue to fight the war against spam by utilizing reputation, accreditation and authentication as their main lines of defense.

Thumbs up: Spammers didn’t take over. Email still thrives for both personal and commercial use. But that doesn’t mean we can rest. The spammers are ever-evolving and determined to wreck the channel. We can’t let them.

4. Google won’t make a big play in commercial email. Many people have been speculating that Google will get into email advertising or list rental or become an ESP and give the service away for free, but I think the channel is too quirky, and that the impressions are too few and too different, for them to jump in with both feet.

Thumbs up: Gmail certainly grew; it is now the third-largest webmail platform behind Hotmail and Yahoo! (or Yahoo! and Hotmail, depending on which stat you believe). But they didn’t move into any new areas with regard to email.

5. There won’t be any new email conferences established in 2008. Other than February’s Email Evolution Conference, which has already been announced, our over-conferenced industry won’t be subject to yet another new conference this coming year.

Thumbs down: Blame the Return Path marketing department for my miss on this one. In November we hosted IN: The Email Reputation Conference at the American Museum of Natural History. If I can be a bit immodest for a moment, I’m quite proud of this event. There was a lot of buzz beforehand, the actual event was spectacular and the follow up has been quite promising.

6. Email marketing won’t get a lot more integrated with other online marketing channels other than SMS. Despite all our collective hand-wringing about the need to integrate channels better, email will be as separate at the end of 2008 as it is today. Other online channels (web, search, display) will get a little more integrated, but email and SMS will continue to be managed separately as “messaging” channels.

Thumbs (mostly) up: Sadly I was right here – email is still off on its own. I call this one “mostly” a hit because , in fact, email didn’t even get more integrated with SMS.

7. Marketers won’t ignore the mobile channel. We’ll see more and more email marketers open up their data capture form to test the efficacy of SMS and mobile marketing channels.

Thumbs (mostly) down: Despite the widespread publicity around the Obama campaign to announce his VP pick via text message, there wasn’t a lot of big news coming out of mobile in 2008.

8. Social Networking sites won’t get any better at using email. The newest poster children for web experiences will continue their uneasy relationship with email. They will still have problems with filtering as a result of sucking down users’ address books, and they will still send out content-free emails to drive people to the web to read web-based messaging instead of just putting the message in the email itself.

Thumbs up: I’m a little sad to be right on this one, but clearly social networking sites did not make any appreciable strides in using email better or integrating their services with the original social network – the inbox.

9. Consumers won’t lose their trust in email. As marketers become more focused on the user and work to achieve relevancy, consumers will experience a more intimate 1:1 dialogue with the retailer furthering email’s reputation as the original and longest-lived “killer app.”

Thumbs (way) up: Despite email marketers continued inability to customize the subscriber experience and create real value for the people they email, we still LOVE email. Lists are growing, response is strong and ROI is high. Yes, consumers still use “this is spam” on email they signed up for, but not more often than in past years.

10. There won’t be a recession in 2008. Although it will take another quarter or two for the economy to work through the rest of the subprime mortgage market meltdown, there will be jitters and maybe some slower growth, but online marketing will continue its growth curve.

Thumbs (way) down: Boy am I sorry to be wrong here. It’s been a rough quarter for many and Q1 is looking grim. But I’m going to stand by my last point here – online marketing has remained strong and will in 2009 as well. Now more than ever, measurable channels that show quick returns are the order of the day for many, many businesses.

Wait, did that sound like a new prediction? Well, it just might be … Stay tuned for more 2009 predictions coming in January.

What do you think of my self-assessment of these predictions? Did you make any 2008 predictions? If so, how did you fare? Leave your comments below.

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