Bryan Caplan: “What motivates businesspeople? While the full answer is complex, the basic answer is clear: Money. People run businesses to get richer – and ideally, to get rich. And whenever I get a small taste of the challenges businesspeople overcome, not to mention the disrespect they endure in our society, I have to say that businesspeople earn every penny. As someone who definitely does not want your job, entrepreneurs of the world, I thank you.”
Milton and Rose Friedman: “Another fallacy seldom contradicted is that exports are good, imports bad. The truth is very different. We cannot eat, wear, or enjoy the goods we send abroad. We eat bananas from Central America, wear Italian shoes, drive German automobiles, and enjoy programs on our Japanese TV sets. Our gain from foreign trade is what we import. Exports are the price we pay to get imports. As Adam Smith saw so clearly, the citizens of a nation benefit from getting as large a volume of imports as possible in return for its exports, or equivalently, from exporting as little as possible to pay for its imports.” [via CafeHayek.]
Brands and enterprises today send various emails to us consumers, but broadly they are of two types: transactional (after we have done an action) or promotional (a call to an action). Promotional mails tend to be long with much text, many links and have numerous images to make an emotional appeal to us. Everything is about getting us to act – in those few seconds when we open and decide to scroll or skip. While emails even today are a brand’s best friend in terms of the clicks and actions that they drive, the basic format of emails has remained largely unchanged for many years. This is because brands have to pay for every communication they have to send (typically 1-3 paise per mail, or about 13-40 cents per 1000 emails). As such, the compulsion is to push as much content as possible. Given the low price point of emails, even a small number of clicks is good enough to deliver the RoI (return on investment) to create a profits flywheel for brands.
The question I started considering was: what if these branded emails could be miniaturised and made almost free? The real cost of sending an email for service providers is very small – meaning that emails have a high gross margin. What if branded microns could be offered for nearly free with a promise to recipients that every micron would have something new and useful in a clutter-free presentation? Could this open up a new win-win communications format for brands with their customers?
When something is free, there is potential for it to be abused. We are all subject to a lot of spam in our email inboxes. However good the filters of the mailbox providers like Gmail, Yahoo and Hotmail, many spammy mails do get through – it is a cat-and-mouse game. In the past few years, the situation has improved and therefore so has the efficacy of emails. It takes a lot to get mails into Gmail’s Primary Inbox – and this ensures brands work hard to ensure engagement and action with their emails.
Microns, by their very nature of being short and info-rich, are likely to have extremely high engagement – they will be read on arrival into the inbox. Every micron opened will lead to subsequent microns being delivered into the inbox because of the way the algorithms work. Microns can thus be used for something that email has not been used for – branding. By having emails delivered at a near-zero cost into the inbox, brands have an infinitely scalable opportunity to be in front of their current and prospective customers every day.
Microsoft report on Hybrid as the future of work: “Employees want the best of both worlds: over 70 percent of workers want flexible remote work options to continue, while over 65 percent are craving more in-person time with their teams. To prepare, 66 percent of business decision makers are considering redesigning physical spaces to better accommodate hybrid work environments. The data is clear: extreme flexibility and hybrid work will define the post-pandemic workplace.”
Time to undo the RTE bias against private non-minority institutions: By Aankhi Ghosh. “Not only has RTE unreasonably differentiated between minority and non-minority schools without any explicable basis, there is also no rational nexus between the object of universal education it seeks to achieve and the exclusion of minority schools from its purview.”
Will Durant: “People spend too much time on the last 24 hours and not enough time on the last 6,000 years.”
The big idea of microns: very short emails that can be consumed in 15-30 seconds and become a habit. A micron (micro newsletter) is just about the length of a mobile screen and can be read in a glance. From news headlines to health tips, from quotes to learning a new word daily, from getting bite-sized chunks of philosophy to a poetry snippet, microns can inform, educate and delight. Microns cut through the clutter of an ocean of content that we know is out there but we don’t actually access. Microns are signals in a world of noise, delivered straight to our email inbox. (You can subscribe to some microns and experience them yourself.)
We can think of microns as offering a new email format for brands and content creators:
Informational “Personalised” Emails
Can be consumed in seconds
Mobile-First: fits on a single screen; no scrolling
Design thinking – no cognitive overload
Push; Sent daily, at a scheduled time
Can have rich media (images, audio, video)
Humanised: crafted by a person, not a bot
Variety: a micron for every interest, all in one place
Shareable via messaging apps like WhatsApp and Facebook
Showcase for innovations: interactive, dynamic content
Here are a few examples of microns:
Imagine getting these microns in your inbox at different times of the day – some inform, some educate, some bring back old memories, some become To-Dos, some serve as alerts, some fulfil a long-felt need. This is the power of a micron. It is a power that brands can use to deepen relationships with their past, present and future customers.
Andrew Ng in Technology review on AI: “A very frequent mistake I see CEOs and CIOs make: they say to me something like “Hey, Andrew, we don’t have that much data—my data’s a mess. So give me two years to build a great IT infrastructure. Then we’ll have all this great data on which to build AI.” I always say, “That’s a mistake. Don’t do that.” First, I don’t think any company on the planet today—maybe not even the tech giants—thinks their data is completely clean and perfect. It’s a journey. Spending two or three years to build a beautiful data infrastructure means that you’re lacking feedback from the AI team to help prioritize what IT infrastructure to build.”
Unlocking the Potential of the Gig Economy in India: A BCG report. “The gig economy has the potential to serve up to 90 million jobs (roughly 30% of India’s non-farm workforce), add up to 1.25% to India’s GDP in the long-run, and create millions of new jobs across all sectors of India’s economy.”
Marketing Cloud 2.0: The Future of Marketing will be Orchestrated: by Kelly Dedman. “In Marketing Cloud 2.0, customer data and the orchestration of marketing data, assets and messages across many channels has rightly taken center stage. Orchestrating marketing campaigns and messaging across many channels requires more data. Profile data, behavioral data, opt-in flags that meet strict new privacy requirements, and channel response data.”
How does the economics of microns work? How much does it cost? Who pays for it?
The cost of sending an email is low – as compared to many other channels of communication. Spamming is expensive in terms of domain reputation and the low hit rate thanks to the increasingly good spam filters of the email inbox providers. But a low cost still does not mean zero. There is a finite cost in terms of email infrastructure that needs to be accounted for.
Microns can be very useful for businesses and publishers as a way to build temporary connections and lasting relationships. They can do so today by using an email service provider. Because emails are priced on a per email basis (10-40 cents per thousand, or about 1-4 paise per email), the temptation is always to pack in as much content as possible in a single email with the hope that something ‘clicks’.
This is the rationale for making microns available at a fraction of the cost of emails. By lowering the cost element, the focus can move to the content – and the recipient. Subscribers are paying for the mail – with their attention. The goal can now be how to build microns into habits – so they are welcomed and not ignored, they are read not surfed, they are remembered not blanked out. Brands have hardly used email for intelligent communication.
Consider this email I got recently from Amazon:
Look at what it doesn’t tell me – what is the book about, why I should buy the book, what will I learn while reading the book, who wrote the book. The assumption is I already know all that – but what if I don’t. Just reminding me that I accessed the book page recently is not as useful as a few gentle informative nudges. This is the gap microns fill – they prime us for purchase, providing the necessary info prior to the decision.
This is the hope of MyToday and Netcore: that a billion people can get 3-5 useful microns daily. The brands sending will then want to talk to Netcore over other types of emails, and the subscribers may have interests which could be monetised. By making the email inbox as the container, the need to download and manage another app is eliminated – making the attention that much more valuable.
Microns and MyToday can become the next attention platform – built on the email inbox, rather than a new app. Microns can be delivered where every digital user’s content is already focused many times a day. What has been missing is to create that something useful which invites rather than irritates – that is the world of microns and MyToday. Welcome to a new world of micron-omics!
For Continued Success, Focus On Lead Measures: by Vishakha Singh. “Lead Measures and Lag measures are defined by the authors of 4 Disciplines of Execution by Sean Covey and Chris McChesney: “No matter what you are trying to achieve, your success will be based on two kinds of measures: Lag and Lead. Lag measures track the success of your wildly important goal. Lags are measures you spend time losing sleep over. They are things like revenue, profit, quality, and customer satisfaction. They are called lags because by the time you see them, the performance that drove them is already passed. You can’t do anything to fix them, they are history.””
Where Modi Could Be Just as Wrong as Nehru: by Andy Mukherjee. “India’s populist prime minister couldn’t be more different from the country’s cerebral founder. Yet the mistake of self-sufficiency beckons again…By the late 1950s, Nehru had turned critical of the “disease of giganticism” unleashed by planning. Modi, too, needs to learn that self-sufficiency won’t put food on the table. Only jobs will.”
David Perrell: “Half of entrepreneurship is staying in the game long enough so you can swing for the fences when the right pitch comes.”
The metrics to measure the success of an email campaign are, in that order, inbox delivery, open rates and clickthroughs. Inbox delivery hinges on the brand’s domain reputation and to a large extent an assessment by the email provider’s spam filtering algorithms. Every mail has to be tested against how Gmail, Yahoo and Hotmail would handle it. Once delivered, there is a competition among various other emails to get opened and not ignored – this is where the subject line and send time optimisations come in. AI assists the marketer in both – which subject line is likely to attract, and when should the email be sent to ensure the recipient has the greatest likelihood of opening it. After that, the goal is to get an action – the click which takes the user to the brand’s website or app. All these metrics serve like a funnel.
A micron’s success is not just being opened but that action happening without latency. Microns can also be shared thus bringing a multiplier in reach. Keeping these factors in mind, microns can be evaluated with three new metrics:
T (time): the time elapsed (latency) between receiving the email in the inbox and it being opened and read; this should be as low as possible; a good T would be under an hour given that we don’t check emails as often as say SMS or WhatsApp which intrude with notifications
R (reproduction number): this is used to measure virality; how many people does one person share the content with; an R of 1 or more ensures spread – as we have seen with the coronavirus
S (subscriptions): the number of active micron channels; from a brand’s perspective, the goal would be to have at 2 or more, with at least one of those subscriptions being a daily connect which creates the habit and offers recurring brand visibility
T, R and S are the metrics that can replace opens and clicks to measure micron efficacy. The simplicity of microns will ensure delivery into the primary inbox. The brevity and minimalism of the content-rich microns will ensure they get consumed. And the hope is that every so often the recipient will find something unique and interesting to share so that the micron can go viral. Consumers will have subscriptions to two types of microns: the infinite series (something new every day) or the finite series (a limited sequence of microns for a very specific purpose linked to a moment).
The target for a brand should be to have a T of less than an hour, an R of 1 or more and S of 2 or more.