When I read Jason Calacanis' announcement that he was retiring from blogging so he could continue his online conversation more intimately via email, four things ultimately went through my mind:
First, OMG! How refreshing to see a strong endorsement of email among the blogging, Twittering technorati. In his first email to his list, he actually says, "Is blogging dead? Yes, it is. Officially." Perhaps this will start a trend where folks start perpetually questioning whether blogging is dead and stop asking if email is dead.
Second, Calacanis really gets email. He understands that it's a one-to-one communication tool. While his content isn't segmented, the response of his readers (in the form of replies) is unique and private. Email is a conversation. All email marketers should view their programs in these terms.
Third, the fact that his email to his private list was immediately reprinted on TechCrunch shows that there's no hiding from the Web 2.0 world. There's no controlling it. For instance, if you don't allow customers to review your products on your Web site, they'll talk about them elsewhere. If you don't invite your customers to converse with you on your blog, forum, etc., they'll have that conversation elsewhere. So not embracing that conversation doesn't mean it won't happen.
Four, the downside of embracing that open conversation is that you have to deal with disingenuous participants -- in the blogging world, these are the "trolls, baiters and idiots," to quote a TechCrunch commenter. This is one of the main reasons Calacanis gives for bowing out of the blog world. It invites a serious question about whether to credential commenters or at least moderate them, which can be a bit of a political hot potato. (I personally have no qualms about rejecting disingenuous comments on my blog and the Email Experience Council's, as a service to our readers.)
In short, I think Calacanis is fighting an uphill battle by trying to go private with his conversation with 1,000+ email subscribers. There's now a fairly thin line separating content consumers from content creators. You just can't put Web 2.0 democracy back in the bottle.
As a former journalist, I still marvel at how democratic publishing has become. After working at huge media houses like Conde Nast and Dow Jones, I've essentially become my own publisher via my blog, and reach tens of thousands of people a year in nearly every country in the world. It's pretty astounding. It's a new, much smaller world where you're much closer to your audience than ever before. While it's definitely true that everyone shouldn't blog, it's great that everyone has the option to give it a go. The world is a richer place because of it.
In the end, Calacanis's announcement got me thinking about how I, the EEC, and the retailers I track interact with and invite conversations with our various audiences -- via our emails, blogs, etc. Perhaps this will get you thinking about how you interact with your audiences as well -- and the terms of those interactions.