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Top ISPs to Enforce New 500 Word Limit in Emails Starting January 1, 2014

The prevailing ideology in the world of email has historically been that spam is the biggest threat to email productivity.

A recent 2012 study titled “The Economics of Spam” by Justin M. Rao (Microsoft Research) and David H. Reiley (Google Inc.) estimates that American firms and consumers experience costs of almost $20 billion annually due to spam. Other studies have estimated the costs even higher closer to the $50 billion mark.

One of the big factors that goes into the cost of spam is lost productivity. If an employee spends 20 minutes a day weeding out spam from their inbox, and assuming an average hourly rate of $23.82 (Bureau of Labor Statistics, Feb. 2013), the daily cost is $7.86. With 52 work weeks, this results in $2,043.60 per year.

However, with advances in spam filtering technology, that number is expected to drop rapidly and a new enemy to email productivity has emerged.

The new biggest problem: Long Emails

We live in a society of 140 character tweets, 30 second video clips, quick SMS text messages, and fast status updates. Yet despite the global move towards brevity, emails can still be very long. This is the new economic challenge.

Using the same calculations as before, we can see the direct effects this plague of long emails has in terms of productivity and dollars. A poll by Elite Email reveals that the average employee reports spending 90 minutes per day reading through long emails. This works out to a daily cost of $28.58 and a huge annual cost of $7,430.80. This clearly highlights that long emails pose a far greater threat than spam.

The top ISPs of the world are jumping on this problem right away before it spirals out of control.

Google (gmail), Yahoo, Microsoft (outlook/hotmail) and AOL have come together to form a new task force named U.S.A.P. (Unified Short Attention Span).

These big four mail providers are not wasting any time and have already proposed new limits coming into effect on January 1, 2014.

Starting in 2014, all emails will be limited to 500 words. Any words over that limit will not be displayed.

The U.S.A.P. organization said, in its official statement:

In today’s economic climate we can no longer afford to play a part in decimating the productivity of the average employee and forcing businesses to incur this unfair cost brought about by long emails. We are going to reign in this problem now and impose harsh limits to get things back on track. We believe these new limits will be welcomed by email users globally and celebrated by business owners who can capitalize on big productivity savings.

As of January 1, 2014, anyone composing a new email will see an alert when they exceed the 500 word email limit.

Gmail: 500 Word Email Limit
Screenshot from Gmail enforcing new 500 word limit.

The new restrictions have received a lot of support from the internet community. While many recognize the limit as harsh, the global consensus is that desperate times call for desperate measures and this is precisely what we need.

Is your organization going to be ready to work within the new 500 word limit?

Many consultants have started running seminars at larger organizations in an effort to treat the condition known as “digital verbal diarrhea”, which is the key driver behind long-winded emails.

One consultant we interviewed said:

Digital verbal diarrhea is a serious issue. But, the first step is admitting you have the problem. Once you’ve come to terms with that, we can begin to treat the issue at its core. The ultimate goal is to have you writing short emails and never relapse into the never-ending scrolling emails that plague so many people right now.

At Elite Email, we firmly believe that these new restrictions will usher in a new era of responsible emailing that will boost productivity in one big swoop. We fully support the initiative by U.S.A.P. as a big step forward in global digital communication.

Furthermore… Happy April Fools’ Day! 🙂

About Robert Burko

Robert Burko is CEO and Founder of Elite Digital, a leading digital marketing agency. As one of Canada's chief digital marketing specialists, Burko has appeared on national television, radio, podcasts, and in countless print publications and blogs across North America. Burko is also a professor of Digital Marketing & Social Media at Seneca College in Toronto. Recognized as a thought leader in his industry, Robert is often invited to speak as an expert in his field at high-profile events across North America.

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