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Janet Roberts

Email Oddities: Gender-Bending; Cold Hotlinks
By Janet Roberts

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Bouncing email isn't the only issue publishers have to wrestle with. Here are two curious developments that may affect how you format your newsletter:

-- Women to Web designers: Keep it simple.

Talk about stereotype reversal: Retailers assume women are more willing to poke through the merchandise or examine displays, even if it's not something they came in to buy, while men are targeted shoppers, zeroing in on what they want and walking out if they can't spot it right away.

Not so on the Internet, according to a commentary published last week in MediaLife, the online component of Media Life magazine. Writer Stacy Graeber, research director for the Internet Research Group, says women are more likely to leave a Web site if they can't find what they want quickly, while men are content to follow links deeper and deeper into the void.

I can think of plenty of reasons why this is so, although most of them border on sexist reasoning - women usually must sandwich in computer time between other duties, so they don't have the time to wander down the byways - and my own experiences. (The minute I get on the computer at home, my 7-year-old is right at my elbow, saying, "Can we go to Miniclips? Can we go to Postopia? Can I play Backyard Baseball?")

Although the study focuses on Web design, it has implications for newsletter designers, too. How complicated is your newsletter format? How hard is it to ferret out the important information? How many clicks does a reader have to take to get from the newsletter to the information she is seeking at your site?

Even if your newsletter audience isn't mostly women, you should consider streamlining your newsletter as much as possible to get key information in front of the reader as soon as possible.

Here's that study (you might need to paste the link in your browser)

-- Hotlinks go cold in Hotmail:

When a Hotmail subscriber takes 5 minutes or longer to read your newsletter, any active links in the newsletter go dead.

It's like this: Your reader opens his Hotmail account, sees your newsletter and clicks on it to open it. It sits open in the Hotmail frame for at least 5 minutes, whether he takes 5 minutes to read the whole thing or lets it sit on the desktop. When he goes back to click a link - whether to your site or your advertiser's - he gets this message:

"Your email message has been idle and this link has become inactive. To access the link, close this window and return to your MSN Hotmail Message. Then click the browser's Refresh button or close your message and reopen it."

When we read this tip in a recent issue of EmailSherpa (a new weekly ezine), we tried it out and ended up with dead links all over the page. The exception, of course, was the message from Hotmail Member Services trying to sell the paid service that launches July 16.

Links in the Hotmail client go dead whether you send your newsletter in text or HTML, but it doesn't happen if you read the same newsletter on Yahoo! or Excite, two other major Web-based email clients.

Why the inactive links? EmailSherpa Editor Alexis Gutzman didn't get an answer from Hotmail or its parent MSN. Neither did we; so, we can't tell you how to get around this quirk. Still, it's another good reason either to keep the length down or to keep the most vital links higher up in your ezine format.

Ezine-Tips for July 05, 2002

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