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Texting Slowing, Email Growing?
By: Brett Moneta
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Technology, right now, is a lot like world affairs. There are always wars happening somewhere. At the moment, it seems everyone is focusing on the mobile communications wars: AT&T vs Verizon, iOS vs Android vs WebOS vs RIM, Tablets. vs  PCs, and more. Who will win, if anyone? Who knows. But it’s certain that a lot of eyes are focused there.

While all of this is going on, there’s another war happening that is likely to shape all of the battles mentioned above. We’re all combatants in this one and we don’t even know it. 

It’s the war for communications itself. This battle has several fronts: email, instant messaging (IM), texting (SMS & MMS), social media, and the incumbent, talking. 

Talking used to own the marketplace until the computer came along. First, people connected their computers and eventually taught them to talk to each other on the phone (insert ironic laugh here). Bulletin boards popped up, and then people learned to send electronic mail to each other. It’s still king (yes, even over social media), but let’s be fair. Email actually predates all the others, including the Intranet and cell phones (according to Wikipedia anyway), so it has a pretty good foothold.

The rest have followed in succession. There have been tons of articles on how email is dying, texting has replaced it and social media is making it moot. So who is winning? Is Facebook, with its country-sized customer base, taking control of communications as we know it? Or is texting, with its LOL and CUL8TR, becoming the de facto form of communication?

Generationally, there’s little question that email is in the background for the younger generation. Older folks do use the social media an awful lot. The reality is a little less exciting: It all depends on what you’re doing.

Everything has its purpose and place. If you’re sending a timely social message, you’ll send it as a text. Need to be clear? You’ll probably call. Social messages that don’t need an immediate reply go as social media. And finally, when you need to send an official message, it goes as email. The younger generation isn’t doing heavy business yet. That’s why they prefer texting.

The thing about email is that it can still take the place of anything but a phone call. And smartphones are fueling the growth  of email even more. As much as 81% of email use happens with mobile devices.  

Still think email is on its way out? About now, you’re thinking, “I don’t see any facts. This is all conjecture.” Sorry to disappoint.

Accoring to Royal Pingdom, over 100 trillion emails were sent last year — almost 300 billion a day — by 1.88 billion users worldwide. Those are some VERY large numbers. While it’s newer, social media should be growing faster, right? Wrong. Email had 480 million new users (about 25%) last year with almost 3 billion accounts already in existence. Comparatively, there were 100 million new Twitter accounts and 250 million new Facebook accounts in 2010. That leaves 120 million for every other social media outlet.

But what about texting? Both young and old use it. It HAS to be number one.

Not so. That comment is sooo 2008. That’s when the growth of texting peaked, when it jumped from a few hundred million to a trillion messages. Last year, we sent around 6 trillion messages. That barely registers on the email scale. And, the growth of text is actually slowing, last year it grew only 8.7%, according to the CTIA report released on Thursday.

So, while email is certainly sharing the spotlight with other forms of electronic communication, I wouldn’t write it off just yet. Everything has its place.

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About the Author
Brett Moneta has been playing in the digital world since 1996. He’s worked for companies like AOL, Avenue A | Razorfish, and Omnicom, developing content strategy and consulting on usability for companies in IT, consumer electronics, retail, healthcare, energy, and more. You can follow his tweets and read his blog too. Find him online here.
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