Gmail Tabs: It Must be August
By Ken Magill
Anyone in publishing will tell you August is their worst month. People are on vacation. Page views drop. Very little news breaks.
For an example of the annual results of August news drought, consider Gmail tabs. Could such a comparatively minor development in any other month draw near the coverage Gmail tabs has received in the last few weeks?
[Yes, I am guilty, too.]
Moreover, the speculation by some folks outside the commercial email industry has been pretty spectacularly off target.
Take the following from Tom Foremski over at Silicon Valley Watcher:
"This [the introduction of Gmail tabs] is very much in line with Google's latest strategies to isolate companies with marketing services promoting online businesses because it sees them as competition to its own services.
"Why should companies pay other firms for promoting content and online businesses on Gmail when that's what Google offers through its AdWords service?
"The Google changes in Gmail mirror recent changes in its webmaster rules on links and keywords in press releases. Again, because press releases are often issued to promote online businesses and that's what Google offers, too.
"Its search algorithm provides a lot of online businesses with free traffic but that is done on the basis that those sites truly provide a valuable service. Google hates anything that tries to dupe its search algorithm into providing an online business with a higher rank by gaming its algorithm through SEO.
"The same is true for Gmail. The appearance of the "Promotions" folder is part of this strategy to sideline competitors. Anything that requires an extra click to get to — reduces traffic significantly.
"It's tough being an online marketer and it's going to become a lot tougher now that Google is stepping up its competitive strategies. After all, Gmail's audience belongs to Google and the free ride that marketers, and PR firms have had so far, will become increasingly difficult to exploit."
Okay, but Gmail’s own recently introduced promotional emails are going into the ”Promotions” folder, as well. Is Google sidelining itself?
Also, the types of commercial emails inbox holders have opted into can help Google determine what kinds of Gmail ads they’re likely to respond to. Why would Google want to do anything to choke off such a valuable source of information?
It wouldn’t. Because retention emails from marketers sent to Gmail address holders on a permission basis aren’t competing with anything Google does. Emails from companies whose business people value are a large part of the reason people have email addresses in the first place.
Then there was the following from James Dennin at Kapitall Wire:
"By rendering traditional email marketing obsolete, Google is in effect putting companies on the fast track to update digital advertising methods. Remember that Google doesn't collect revenue from the number of emails that it processes, but rather through advertising."
Yes, but it collects revenue by serving ads in line with inbox holders’ commercial interests. It gauges these interests by scanning the email they already get.
Moreover, Google’s introduction of sponsored email-like messaging indicates its executives don’t believe traditional email marketing is even close to obsolete.
Lastly, reports that Gmail opens have dipped since the introduction of Gmail tabs are meaningless. It’s August, for cryin’ out loud. With the exceptions of travel and hospitality, everything retail-related takes a dip in August.
Folks, I agonize over this newsletter every week trying to deliver the right mix of news, humor and analysis so people will want to read it.
You know what I don’t agonize over? Gmail tabs. Send stuff people want and whatever the various inbox providers do with their interfaces will have little effect on you.