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Using E-Mail Means Coping with Crush of Cyberjunk


January 22, 2001

Upon returning from a one-week trip, Victoria Soares, senior public relations manager for Sprint PCS in Las Vegas, spent a full work day catching up on the more than 300 e-mails she had waiting for her.

She expected a slew of messages. Before she went on her vacation, Soares had to empty the "in" box on her e-mail system to ensure there was enough room for all of the messages that would come during her absence.

The messages never seem to stop. Often when Soares is away from the office she accesses her e-mail from her laptop computer or mobile phone "to make sure I'm on top of everything."

Soares is not the only one suffering from e-mail overload.

American executives spend 108 minutes each day reading and sending e-mail, according to a recent survey by Accountemps, a Robert Half International company.

"The speed and simplicity of electronic messaging make it a preferred method of communication in many business situations," said Max Messmer, chairman of Accountemps, in a statement. "(But) e-mail is among many technologies that are increasing the pace of business and creating expectations for faster turnaround.

"Ironically, the very tools designed to save time might actually be adding to the number of hours we spend working."

Lynn Gerard, recruiting manager for the Las Vegas office of Robert Half International, said there is an onus on people sending e-mail to respect the recipient's time.

If the subject of the e-mail is lengthy or involved it may be better to speak in person or use the phone, Gerard said.

"I think that if people use e-mail efficiently and effectively and they respect other people's time and consider what they're sending and only send what is necessary, then e-mail can be extremely helpful," Gerard said.

Accountemps also says people can save time by resisting the temptation to read each e-mail as it arrives and instead check their e-mail periodically.

But the temptation is too great for many workers, such as Soares, who said she sometimes spends five to six hours out of a more than 10-hour workday reading and responding to e-mail.

The other thing that adds to the "in" box overload is spam, which the online technology encyclopedia Webopedia defines as "electronic junk mail."

Spam comprises an estimated 10 percent of all e-mail messages, said John Mozena, co-founder and vice president of the Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial E-mail.

Market research firm Jupiter Communications estimates by 2005 consumers will receive more than 5,600 e-mails per year, 1,600 of those from marketers.

The coalition is lobbying Congress to come up with legislative solutions to reduce spam.

Mozena said his group respects the right to free speech but also believes that companies have a right to the space on their own e-mail servers, and "10 percent of that capacity is being stolen by spammers."

He said there is no way to estimate the cost of spam on businesses, but he said 10 percent of the cost of maintaining servers, expanding bandwidth and repairing server crashes could be attributed to spam.

The problem with spam is that, unlike traditional direct marketing techniques, there is little cost to implement a spam marketing campaign. So large numbers of companies are doing it regardless of the response rate.

It costs $30 per thousand recipients to deliver an e-mail to existing customers and $500 per thousand if the offer is mailed, according to a study by Jupiter

The study said it takes three months and $20,000 to create a direct mail ad and just three weeks and $1,000 to create an e-mail marketing ad.

But e-mail marketing isn't all bad, said Michael Tchong, editor of the San Francisco-based marketing newsletter Iconocast. Tchong said e-mail cuts down on paper waste, saving trees, and can be specifically targeted, resulting in higher response rates.

Tchong said most companies don't want to send messages to disinterested parties because they are paying $300 for a list of a thousand e-mail addresses, triple the cost of mailing addresses.

But he estimates e-mail marketing is here to stay, especially if marketing budgets are reduced by a downturn in the economy.

Trevor Hayes, © 2001 Las Vegas Review-Journal


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