“3 reasons why email is dead”

“It’s 2018 and email is already dead”

“Meta to biz: Email is dead — long live WhatsApp”

These are some of the headlines you find on different tech blogs when you search about the future of email.

Back in Pakistan, we operate under the same “assumption” that email is dead and people are moving more and more toward Slack, WhatsApp, or other platforms. And that is the reason why we do not pay much attention to email as a tool to attract news consumers to our websites or build a loyal audience.

Pakistani news websites are highly dependent on social media for traffic. After YouTube, Facebook is the main driver with 37.3 million Pakistanis on it. This reliance leaves them at the mercy of Facebook which doesn’t give much attention to news. Less than 3% of the posts shown on newsfeeds are news items from news organizations craving an audience.

That’s a big problem but how do you diversify your traffic sources?

Newsletters, contrary to Pakistan, are a big thing in the United States with all major news organizations having newsletters sent directly to consumers’ inboxes. But in Pakistan, we still believe that email is an obsolete technology, so we don’t pay attention to it. But the data suggests otherwise.

According to MailButler, the number of global email users in 2022 was 4.3 billion, which is expected to reach 4.6 billion by 2025. The number of email users is rising, but do people check their inbox regularly? MailButler’s statistics answer this question, too: “99% of email users check their inbox every day, 58% of which do it first thing in the morning.”

For Pakistan specifically, there is no recorded data available on email users but DataReportal says there are 71 million social media users in Pakistan – almost 99% use their email address to sign in. 71 million is a huge number.

Not so dead, eh?

Operating under this assumption has deprived Pakistani newsrooms of building a relationship with audiences.

My WPI fellow from Finland Alexander Uggla asked this very question to Ronnie Ramos, editor-in-chief of Illinois Answers Project, and Tim Franklin, who is a senior associate dean and lead of Medill Local News Initiative at Northwestern University.

“I use newsletters on my platforms as a way to engage readers and keep them connected to us,” said Ronnie Ramos.

Franklin agrees: “The most important metric for success for sustainability is building habit. And so what’s the best tactic to build a habit? It’s newsletters. Newsletters are like the new print home delivery. Back in the day, you got your news when somebody would toss a newspaper in your driveway or on your porch, and sometimes broke the windows. Sometimes it went behind the bush and we had to get out. The newsletter is the new home delivery.”

American newsrooms have been very successful in leveraging this personal relationship via the newsletter. I am personally a huge fan of The New York Times’s daily briefing sent to my inbox. Axios has built its whole business model around newsletters.

I checked the websites of all major news organizations in Pakistan. Dawn, Express Tribune, The News, BBC Urdu and even my own publication Independent Urdu has no newsletter offering.

Email is here to stay. It has survived new products this long. The intimacy an inbox provides is difficult for any other product to match. We have to meet our audiences right in their inbox.