Stop joining mailing lists.

Everybody wants to be on the Do Not Call list: the productive, the unproductive, the young, the old. Everyone.

So why do so many of these same people willingly give out their e-mail addresses?

Are cell phone numbers and e-mail addresses really that different?

I completely understand why Internet marketers and salespeople adopt this approach: Conversion rates are much higher for e-mails than anything else on the Internet. E-mail addresses are as much Internet currency as Bitcoin is.

I also understand why self-help, productivity-ish writers — who are marketing and selling products too — adopt this same model. Yet I can’t help but smell some hypocrisy in the air.

Many of these people — in the content on their website and in their free e-book they give you in exchange for your e-mail address — advise you to unsubscribe from everything.

But I understand why they do this. And, to be fair, you can usually Unsubscribe.

But what I do not understand is why productivity consumers go along with it. These are people who are learning how to better organize their lives, get things done, accomplish, goals, etc. Why are they distracting themselves?

The obvious response is: But how will people get paid? Are they supposed to just write for free?

There are all sorts of ways to get paid. But more importantly, that’s a silly reason to support mailing lists. It’s not the job of the consumer to worry about how the producer gets paid. The producer should be crafty. If mailing lists disappear, the crafty producers will figure out another way to do things.

It’s not unlike the reasons I’ve heard when I toyed around with the idea of starting a company. It was to be called Libeerty. The basic model was to shame stores that sold out-of-date beers and bars with dirty tap lines, and give some sort of badge of honor to stores with fresh beers and bars with clean lines.

People had no problem with the latter — clearly bars are responsible for cleaning their own tap lines.

But the former met resistance: “It really isn’t the store’s fault. It’s the brewery’s or the distributor’s,” people said to me. While this may be true, the store is much more accessible to the consumer than the brewery or distributor.

Here, too, it’s not up to the customer to figure out — or even care, really — how the salesperson. That’s their challenge. That’s capitalism.

This all begs the question: Is e-mail ever productive? I would argue that it is productive when it saves you resources — time or otherwise.

For example: Blog posts sent to e-mail in lieu of a RSS reader. This is far better than opening up a bunch of tabs and having to remember the URLs of your favorites. (I remember when I used to open up CNN in one tab, RealClearPolitics in another, Lifehacker in a third, and then my four or five favorite blogs in other tabs. Not all of the blogs would be updated. The time wasted, added up over time, is substantial.)

Another example: A course in which lessons take the form of a series of e-mails. Sometimes this is efficient.

Oh, and keeping in touch with people. Writing e-mail every so often to your closest friends and family takes far less time than hopping on Facebook or Instagram on a daily basis to keep up with people.

Well, okay, then, how do you plan to maintain contact with readers and potential customers? What’s your big alternative?

Here’s my idea:


Here’s how it could play out: 
1. “Give me your e-mail and I’ll send you free lessons and helpful tips for understanding my book.”
2. “I hope you’ve benefited from these e-mails. If you’d like to check out my second book, here’s a link. Oh, and if you want to sign up for another course, you can do so here.”
3. Then BOOM. Mailing list DELETED.

I have such a list now. I'll update here and we'll see how the experiment goes. 


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