Oct 17, 2012 ยท 3 minutes

On Monday morning, I sent an email to a couple of thousand NSFWCORP readers to tell them that their sponsored subscriptions -- signed up for during our pilot period -- were about to expire.

For most of those readers it was the first email they'd received from us since they first signed up: NSFWCORP might be all about cross-platform accessibility but that didn't include email.

Because everyone knows that email is dead.

Ten years ago, I co-founded a satirical "comment sheet" in the UK called The Friday Thing. Delivered entirely via email, the ezine attracted 10,000 paid subscribers within a few months of launch. We published every week for almost seven years, but during that time barely a month passed when I didn't have a moment of panic: Is email dying? Could an email magazine remain relevant into the second decade of the 21st century? One thing is certain: If we were to launch The Friday Thing today, we wouldn't use email as our primary delivery mechanism.

Because everyone knows that email is dead.

Sure, publications like the Daily Candy and Thrillist have become multi-multi-million dollar businesses after launching as email newsletters, but every successful email publication has developed a robust online presence in order to stay relevant.

Because everyone knows that email is dead.

Spam filters, email overload, the rise of social media: the reasons why email is dead are manifold. Teenagers don't use it. Adults associate it with junkmail or work. Except for very specific use cases -- like, say, subscription renewal reminders -- there was almost no reason for NSFWCORP to send a single email to our subscribers.

And yet, in addition to the (fortunately large number of) people who chose to renew their subscriptions, that one email prompted over a hundred pieces of feedback about what people liked or hated about NSFWCORP. The funny thing: a large percentage of that email feedback was about...email. Specifically dozens of subscribers replied to say that my email had prompted them to visit NSFWCORP again and read articles they'd missed by not logging in every day.

The email from Chris Sacca put it best: "Holy shit," he wrote, "I had no idea all that was going on over there. I guess I kinda forgot about NSFW."

He was far from alone. Some correspondents suggested that we send out a weekly "what you've missed" email to subscribers. Others wanted the option to have every single NSFWCORP dispatch sent by email, either to save them logging in or to make it easier to read NSFWCORP on the Kindle. Still more wanted to be able to subscribe to individual authors.

So email, it turns out, is not dead. In fact, amongst NSFWCORP's core readers -- educated, employed, older than 25, blah blah blah -- it remains an incredibly effective way to deliver a message, especially if you want that message to be read and acted upon. (By contrast, when I Tweeted a request for feedback last week to over 12,000 followers, I received precisely two replies.)

One of the most fun things about being a startup is that we can respond really quickly to surprising discoveries. Yesterday afternoon, less than 24 hours after that initial email went out, I had a phone meeting with Josh Ellis, our lead developer, in which we sketched out the email features our readers want. By the end of next week, NSFWCORP subscribers will be able to subscribe to daily dispatches by email and a weekly digest. The ability to subscribe to individual authors will come not long afterwards.

What happens next will depend on the uptake of those first email features, but my gut is that NSFWCORP is about to make email a core part of its publishing business. Which is pretty impressive for medium that everyone knows is dead.