Mobile email use is on the rise even as Web-based email use continues to decline, according to new data from comScore. The Web measurement firm found that traffic to Web-based email sites dropped 6% to 153 million in November 2010 compared to a year ago, while the number of people accessing email via mobile devices increased 36% to 70 million.
"From PCs to mobile devices, whether its email, social media, IM or texting, consumers have many ways to communicate and can do so at any time and in any place," said Mark Donovan, senior vice president of mobile at comScore, in a statement. "The decline in Web-based email is a byproduct of these shifting dynamics and the increasing availability of on-demand communication options."
In addition to shrinking the number of Web email users, engagement in the category has also dipped, with time spent falling 9%, and page views dropping 15%.
Young users -- those between the ages of 12 and 17 -- showed the sharpest decline in usage during the past year, with the number of visitors dropping 24%, and total minutes and page views falling 48% and 53%, respectively. The shift away from email among younger people has not been lost on sites such as Facebook, which emphasized newer communication tools like texting and chat over email in the revamped messaging system it unveiled in November.
"We don't think a modern messaging system is going to be email," said Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg at the time. That view appears to be borne out by the latest comScore figures, although the firm notes that email is far from washed up. It remains one of the most popular Web activities, reaching 70% of the U.S. online population each month. Usage among older users 55 and over rose 15% in November from a year ago.
On the mobile side, the 36% overall audience growth was accompanied by a 40% gain in daily usage to 43.5 million users. Not surprisingly, younger age groups tend to be more active in mobile email. People 25 to 34 were 60% more likely to access email than an average mobile user, and those between 18 and 24 were 46% more likely to do so.
Of course, text-messaging is the communication channel of choice among teenagers. A study earlier this year from the Pew Research Center found more than half (54%) of American teens were text-messaging daily in September 2009, up from 38% eighteen months earlier. Overall, 72% of teens are now text-messagers.
When it comes to the growth of mobile email, comScore cited the proliferation of smartphones as a key factor. "In a relatively short period of time, adoption of mobile email has reached 78% of the smartphone population, which is very similar to the penetration of Web-based email among Internet users," said Donovan. "These findings demonstrate just how quickly channel shifts can occur and why it's now essential for media brands to have a strong presence in both arenas."