Does Gmail’s New Filtering System Signal the End of Newsletters?

In May Gmail announced a new feature that has some serious consequences for all of us who use newsletters as a marketing tool. Gmail users will have the option to deposit their inbound messages into folders:

  1. Primary

    With Gmail’s new filters, newsletters will be directed right into the Promotions folder–out of site and out of mind

  2. Social
  3. Promotions and offers
  4. Updates, bills and receipts

Primary messages, those that are mission-critical/related to your business, will go right into the Primary folder. All of your social media messages will be centralized in one place, the Social folder, which is a great feature. If all of your Updates, Bills and Receipts folder really do get autodeposited into this one centralized folder, there’s a lot to like about this one as well.

But the one that’s getting all of the attention is Promotions because it’s into this folder that newsletters are going to be channeled. If you hate the constant deluge of unwanted newsletters, you’re going to love this feature. If you pour your heart into your monthly or quarterly newsletter as an important part of your marketing strategy, this is very bad news, indeed.

As of July of last year, there were 425M Gmail users; Gmail is the email system of choice for small businesses and entrepreneurs—so this is going to hurt anyone who markets to this demographic. Of course, there are going to be those who ignore this feature and opt-out rather than in, and it may not always work—there will be newsletters that slip through the filter.

I’m not liking this at all. I think newsletters are a great way to stay in front of your clients. Correctly used, they’re an important communication tool. But let’s face it, Gmail’s filtering system is going to cut down on the number of people who receive and read our newsletters.

Yet here’s why I remain an optimist: Companies like Constant Contact, MailChimp and Vertical Response have built a huge industry around newsletters. Constant Contact, in particular, is smart and aggressive. They’re not going to roll over for this, so I’m betting they’ll find a way to circumvent the Promotions folder. I’m thinking that this one is going to be fun to watch.

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