Back in 2005, I had an idea. (Yes, I have about one good one every five years.) I looked at the success the daily e-mail newsletter Daily Candy was enjoying, and wondered why there wasn't a Daily Candy equivalent for men. Daily Candy, with its trend spotting and sample sales, its chic illustrations and its girlish slang, was using an Internet technology, email, to hit women in a sweet spot that the magazine industry had been hitting them in for years. But why should women be the ones to have all the fun? Who was serving the male market?
This struck me as a window of opportunity, so to fill that void I started Single Shot. The format was simple: One email a day, once a day, every business day, targeted squarely at men. Not being a man myself, I was perhaps not an expert on what would appeal to the less-fair sex, but I did my best. I dove in and started churning out daily emails, trying hard to tap into my inner male, and relying on my husband to edit out anything too un-dude-like.
Although Single Shot ultimately succumbed to the demands of my day job, I have ever since believed that email is a hugely under-developed medium. For a while, it looked like RSS feeds might kill email as a medium for commercial messages of any kind. RSS seemed like a great way around the boatloads of spam that was filling up inboxes from Gmail to Outlook. I personally set up a Bloglines account and set all of my commercial emails to stream into it, side-by-side with my favorite blogs.
There was just one small problem: I never visited it. Only rarely did I go back to my Bloglines account to catch up on my favorite blogs -- even the ones written by close friends who happen to be comedic geniuses. The commercial emails I opted in to receiving -- mostly retailers like Banana Republic, whose clothes I actually wanted to look at -- quickly overreached the maximum capacity of my account, so that any new messages could not be viewed. RSS -- at least the way I had set it up -- just didn't work for me.
So it warms my heart to see signs that email is back on the rise. To me, the clear evidence appears in the form of a handful of fashion companies making strides in both e-commerce and editorial. If you're having a hard time seeing the money, let's start with the leader of the pack, the Gilt Groupe, valued last summer at $400m. Follow that up with Rue La La, which is basically in the same business, then Billion Dollar Babes, Top Button, The Outnet, and for kids, Mini Social. With some variation, the business model of all these sites is essentially the same. One sale a day. Once a day. Every day of the week. And though they hold the sales on their respective Web sites, you receive an alert not by RSS feed, but by e-mail.
It's not that I buy from these sites every day, but I just like to look at their merchandise. And I do it every day. I like to know what's out there, to know what my peers are buying. I just like to look at fashion. It's like a small vacation I take while I'm sitting at my desk. It's pure pleasure, antithetical to all the other work I do at my desk. And because I look at it so often, naturally I have my moments of weakness when I actually buy.
Then there are sites like Who What Wear. The emphasis here is not on e-commerce, but on editorial. Pictures of celebrities and models off-duty, and detailed descriptions of their fashion choices. Throw in a few lucrative product placements and what's not to like?
So for me, it's fashion. But what is it for you? Shoes? Cars? Golf courses? Vacation destinations? The variations are endless. Email works. If it didn't why would spammers keep piling it on? They do it because they know the numbers are in their favor. And even after all these years, after new technologies, after trend after trend, it still works.