Broken By Design: DirectTV and Overproduced Email

I was invited to be in a focus group for the local talk radio station recently with a focus on how they use email to communicate with listeners.  As I’ve been a long time listener of this station and especially like some of the things they do online I thought it would be good to participate.  They wanted feedback on what they are currently doing and opinions on new approaches and services they were thinking of offering.

One example that I like.. is that you can tell them what roads you travel for your commute and if there are accidents or whatever on those roads leading up to rush hour they will let you know via email. They also do breaking news alerts and similar things you can choose to receive.

So some of what they showed us were examples of emails from other companies that were covering news items or special deals from their advertisers etc.  All were overproduced email through… that is.. they looked like web pages instead of email. Lots of graphics.. large photos.. etc.  I and several others pointed out that this is not the sort of stuff we want to get or have to read on our smart phones and how often we are working with limited bandwidth.

Most of these example emails were 80% ‘advertising’ or branding or whatever and 20% message content.  To me.. for an email that is supposed to be communicating the content.. that’s broken. It looks great.. and if you have the screen and bandwidth to see it properly I’m sure it would leave a good impression… but it’s not appropriate for email.  Also, you are emailing people you already have a relationship with. You don’t need half the screen taken up by some logo banner to remind them who you are or what your call letters are.  You also don’t need to repeat the same information 3 times in a message.  Keeping mobile devices in mind.. you should make use of the From address and Subject lines to let someone know without even opening it if it’s breaking news.. some advertising deal or an upcoming special guest on a show that day.

My similar gripe is with DirecTV.  I switched back to them a few months ago after TimeWarner demonstrated that the combination of Tivo/CableCard/Tuning Adapter just wasn’t going to work reliably. One of things I like about DVRs is the 30 second skip.. I use it constantly.  One thing I’ve noticed though is that when you encounter an advertisement FOR DirectTV.. ON DirecTV it won’t let you skip past it.  You can still fast forward.. but not skip.  It’s hard to imagine what the reasoning is for this… seeing as I’m obviously already a customer. What marketing genius thought it was a good idea to FORCE me to watch an advert for a service I’m already paying for??  This is broken behavior and all it does is annoy me every single time it happens. It’s also a reminder that as good as their stuff is.. it’s a long way from Tivo.

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