Email Is Getting Harder Because Everything Else Is So Much Easier

Data from the Buzzfeed network has found many fewer page views are coming from email than they used to, as other modes of sharing, like Facebook and Twitter have taken off. We have a theory for why: emailing links around takes too much effort.

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Data from the Buzzfeed network has found many fewer page views are coming from email than they used to, as other modes of sharing, like Facebook and Twitter have taken off. Since the beginning of this year, all the sites included in that network, including TMZ and the Daily Mail, have seen drop in email shares, with a big drop-off in May 2012, as the chart below via Buzzfeed shows. We have a theory for why: People are emailing around links less because it takes too much effort. Think about the many steps it takes to compose an email, even from a news site, compared to social sharing it.

Unlike email, mainstream social media platforms are automatically connected to pretty much all of the Internet. Sure, someone with a New York Times subscription is automatically logged in via their email to the paper. But that's not a norm across the whole of the world wide web in the same way it is with Facebook and Twitter. Because of that, social sharing takes one, maybe two clicks. Facebook "liking" something doesn't even involve typing a single word and voile its shared with your entire feed. Email on the other hand, involves, inputting your own email, choosing a recipient, knowing their email off the top of their head, and maybe writing a note. Or, one could copy and paste the link into Gmail and send it that way. Either way, it's effortful.

This ease of sharing is exactly what Facebook intended when it introduced these buttons. "One of the best things about [the Like button] is that it does the same thing as Connect without users having to [activate] Connect," Michael Davidson, CEO of, which is part of, said after a big like button roll out in 2010. "It makes things easier. And we like it when Facebook makes things easier." It has become so easy, in fact, that has of February 2012 the social network was recording 2.7 billion likes a day. In that same post Buzzfeed says since January 2011, its Facebook referrels have gone from 50 million to 70 million. The same patterns go for Twitter and Pinterest, too. "Correlation isn't causation, but maybe," notes Buchanan. But, there is something to this easiness thing. And, if you're sharing on you News Feed, why write out separate emails.

However, not everyone has given up on email. This very (some might say lazy) sharing habit, looks to be generational, as Buzzfeed's Matt Buchanan notes. He writes:

Consider the kinds of users most likely to email stories. You know, your dad. Put another way, 31 percent of the New York Times' top sixty shared stories were shared via email; for the Times audience (which, you might imagine, is older than BuzzFeed's), email's a highly important vector for spreading Times stories. By comparison, of's most shared stories, only 13 percent of them were shared via people pressing the email button. The Times and BuzzFeed give the same weight and prominence to their email buttons that they do to other social sharing buttons, so the email dropoff clearly goes beyond the button.

That jives with recent State of News statistics that found a gap between young and old in news sharing, as the chart below shows.

But, as they say, the youth is the future. So, au revoir email.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.