Could Gmail Priority Inbox Kill Email Marketing?
I’ve been using a number of Gmail Labs features in an effort to prioritize and filter incoming email, and I’ve settled on a system that has allowed me greater freedom from constant email-checking. But my techniques — which rely primarily on the add-on Multiple Inboxes — are by no means infallible. Thus I found myself intrigued by Google’s announcement today of Priority Inbox, which automagically sorts your email by importance. This is a big deal for any Gmail user, but I wonder if it might create a third category of email just above “spam.” I also wonder if the emails of filmmakers are going to frequently find themselves in this third, deprioritized category.
Here’s Google’s requisite launch video:
To date, most email users are accustomed to a filtering system that, by default, divides all incoming mail into two categories. One is “spam,” which we all know as the junk email that used to choke our inboxes but is now generally under control with most decent email services (Gmail, I find, is almost flawless — there is no need for anyone to publicize their email address as “something [at] whatever [dot] com” anymore). We don’t even read spam, as it goes to a folder that’s automatically emptied periodically. The second category of email is sometimes referred to as “ham” — emails that are “real meat,” not some imitation crap. These are the emails we actually read. But Priority Inbox essentially adds a third automatic category — let’s call it, uh, “pam.” With Priority Inbox, we’ll answer the ham immediately, but the pam could — man, am I really going here? — not stick. Meaning, Priority Inbox users — which will presumably make up the bulk of Gmail users (and if it proves popular, you can bet other email services will roll out similar features) — could start relying on the intelligence of the system, and just not view pam emails very much (or at all). For filmmakers, who often send mass emails about a new release or fundraising initiative, I wonder what effect Priority Inbox might have on open rates, clickthrough, etc. In general I assume Priority Inbox is going to assign the greatest weight to personal emails, which could have some interesting implications for email marketers. Which is to say, if your emails find themselves most often grouped among other newsletters and impersonal material, will they be viewed as much as they are now, when they are grouped in with notes from significant others?
There’s a lot more to wonder about the system — does it assign “global importance,” which would allow you to juke the stats (i.e. tell all your friends to mark your emails as important, and then you’ll be able to better get through to strangers), or is it simply filtering on an individual basis? How much training does it need? Will it be enabled by default?
The proof, of course, is in the pudding — wait, what does that even mean? — oh, the phrase is supposed to be “the proof of the pudding is in the eating.” I suppose that means that the proof of Priority Inbox is in the emailing. Regardless of your email provider, however, Priority Inbox is certainly something to keep tabs on, both as an email user and as a filmmaker/networker/marketer. In related news, a NoFilmSchool email subscription will be launching soon!
Priority Inbox will be rolled out “over the course of the next week.”