Analysis of my inbox: 2 out 3 emails I get are from a machine
by Josh Bernoff
Is your inbox a communications channel? Or is it a target?
To find out, I analyzed a week's worth of the contents of my Forrester.com inbox. (I did this two years ago,too.)
Why do this? Because I think even as we embrace social, email is still the bread and butter of many of our interactions -- and it's a channel that's being clogged by out of control machines, and I don't mean spam.
In one week (26 Jan to 1 Feb 2011) I received 391 emails. I include spam caught by Outlook (most of the spam is screened by Postini before it even reaches my account). As an analyst, author, and employee of a company with over 1000 employees, my email box is not "typical" of anything. But here's the most interesting thing I found:
63% of my inbox came from either mass emailings or other computer-generated, automatic emails.
Only one in three of my emails is sent specifically to me by a person. I fear this trend is going to increase. Machines are very good and efficient at sending emails. I, however, not being a machine, have to read and respond to them individually. The machines are only going to get better at reaching me, but I'm spending a whole lot more of my time on emails to me from people.
It would be relatively easy to write code to put all the machine and mass emails into another box where I could sort through them quickly once a day. Who has this product?
The chart here shows a top-level analysis of what I receive. 38% of my inbox is individually addressed interactions with people inside or outside the company -- the real business that all of us depend on email for. 3% is personal email that's automatically generated (from our corporate travel system or from iTunes, for example). 15% is "BACN" -- the automatic emails from social networks. There's another 14% taken up by messages from Forrester and newsletters I actually signed up for. The rest -- about 28% -- is stuff I didn't ask for, PR pitches, email marketing, system messages ("Your mailbox is nearly full"), and spam.
I did the same analysis by size. I got 21 MB of stuff emailed to in a week. Forrester corporate emails took up 2.6 MB, partly because people inside Forrester are frequently emailing around large files instead of what we should be doing, which is posting the content on our Intranet and linking to it. And PR people sent me 6.8 MB worth of pitches, almost a third of my inbox. This is the equivalent of junk mail, because it's unsolicited newsletters, file attachments, and other stuff that's emailed since they think I'm more likely to open it than if they sent a link. The two largest individual emails I received were an unsolicited pitch from Minavox with a 3MB PDF attached, and a 1MB "call for papers" inviting me to contribute to a Swiss publication. If you're reading this, please don't send me megabytes of stuff at random. It annoys me.
Here are some more facts that you might find interesting.
- Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday are the busiest days in my inbox. I got the most pitches on Tuesday, and the least on Monday.
- 28% of my inbox is "Re:" something. I read these quickest. However, if you put "Re:" on a pitch you are a lying loser, so don't try it.
- 62% of my email comes from outside Forrester, 38% from inside. The inside email is slowly increasing as Forrester gets larger.
- Much of my internal mail concerns speeches, and there is also other personal business of course. But 16% of my personal emails are mass corporate emailings, and another 14% are corporate system messages. As Forrester gets larger, these mass emailings and automatic messages are making my internal emails mimic some of the onslaught I receive from outside the company.
In case you are wondering, during the same time period I sent 170 emails (I'm quite prolific, that's more than 20 per day). 58% were "Re:" another message, and 23% were acceptances, rejections, cancellations, or proposals for appointments. I sent 3 MB total, including only one file over 200KB (a file of corrections sent to my publisher.) 34% were sent outside of Forrester. Only 10 emails were sent to more than one person, and none (zero) were sent to a mailing list.
I'll follow this up with a more detailed analysis of the pitches in the next post, and my PR hall of shame in a third post.
How much of your email comes from a machine? What are you doing about it? Let fly!