Back To The Future

This is the factoid I happily take with me into 2015:

A global poll of business executives in December rates email as the Number 1 marketing program where they plan to increase spending in 2015.

At last.

We’ve been anticipating this moment since founding VitalBriefing in mid-2011, when we felt like we were ahead of the wave while some others thought that in this age of technology-and-algorithms, we were way behind it, living in a past when email mattered.

For so long, the focus understandably has been on social media and mobile, which makes sense given their meteoric rise and the digital industry’s obsession with “the next next thing.”

But what I particularly love about the current poll is that 6 out of 10 execs plan to increase spending on email communications (including newsletters), compared to fewer than 5 out of 10 increasing in social media and 4 in 10 in mobile.

Today’s Inspiration: The great Yogi Berra

Even better, another study found that email was the top channel specifically because it’s so effective at personalizing, segmenting and targeting the digital experience for specific audiences.

In fact, personalization and targeting will be the focus in coming months as a route to measuring return on investment. From our perspective, that’s terrific. Measuring ROI in any content-focused business is a challenge and we already do it by providing our clients with critical numbers on the performance of the content we create for them.

As a former print journalist before moving to digital media, I’ve always been bemused by the focus on technology over content. And my first digital business created email newsletters way back in the prehistoric times of the 2000 Internet boom. I love that 15 years later, I’m heading a company still based on that means of conveying high-value, targeted information that helps people make critical decisions.

It must be in my blood: One of my first jobs as a young journalist way back in the 20th century was at a company creating targeted newsletters snail-mailed to high-paying corporate subscribers in the coal industry. They loved getting relevant, objective, curated information that gave them insights that helped grow their business.

Which brings me to my next favorite story at the dawn of 2015: The Rise of the Email Newsletter (as dubbed in one story last week). This buzz started about a year ago and it’s getting louder.

One of the reasons, according to a study by the Nieman Lab, is music to our ears: Email newsletters act as a smart filter for people overwhelmed by the noise. “This is about trusted filters identifying the ‘right’ new information, surfacing significance, and making relevant connections to existing knowledge based on the specific audience.”

Think about it. Ask just about anyone about his or her emailbox and you’ll get an earful about the flood of newsletters, some solicited, many not, almost always with this caveat: ‘But there’s this one that I always read because the content is so good.’

As Mathew Ingram wrote recently in GigaOm: “The more information there is, the more value there is in intelligent, personalized curation.”

At VitalBriefing, we’re focused on the financial sector and I have to say that at the start of our business, the notion of personalized, segmented, content-rich communications to the clients of banks and other financial institutions was a hard, slow sell.

Thankfully, that’s changing, and personally, I couldn’t be more gratified. As the great American baseball catcher, manager and coach Yogi Berra legendarily said: “It’s déjà vu all over again.”