BURLINGTON, Wash. (BNc) — Email groups like the GospelPreachers Yahoo list face challenges of declining participation even as this long-lived group celebrates 14 years of operation.
The first post was made Oct. 21, 1999.
“That is ancient in the world of cyberspace. We started with a website called onelist.com. That changed to egroups.com and eventually yahoogroups.com, which of course, is part of the much larger Yahoo conglomeration of websites,” list owner John Gaines wrote yesterday to the group.
John preaches with the Skagit Valley congregation in Burlington, Wash.
Membership steady, but fewer posts
“This is the 24,870th post to the GospelPreachers group. That averages out to 148 posts per month, or approximately five per day. Our busiest month ever was May, 2003, when we had 507 posts,” John said. “Back in those days, we actually worried about people posting too much and flooding list members’ mailboxes. Posting has slowed dramatically in the last few years. Since June, 2012, we have had only one month where we exceeded 100 posts. Our slowest month ever came this past August when we had only 20 posts.”
The group membership has hovered consistently around 310-320 for the last ten years, John said, so people really are posting less.
‘Typical across the board’
A recent GospelPreachers discussion attributed the slowdown to the growth of social media sites like Facebook and Google+. John agrees the tendency is felt in other groups.
“What happened to us is pretty much typical across the board for most email groups,” John explained.
Ken Thomas, list owner of the church-of-Christ list, also hosted on Yahoo, concurs.
“Posts have been dropping on almost all discussion lists including one that I have moderated for years. At one time there were 600-1100 messages a month. Now we are down to very few monthly posts. Other social media as Facebook and blogs have seemingly taken many of us in many directions,” he wrote.
Is there a future for such email groups or has social media spelled their death knell?
“I still believe we can serve a useful purpose. Communicating by email has some advantages. At the top of the list for me is the capability to find posts from last week, last month, last year, or 14 years ago easily. By going to the Yahoo Groups website, you can — in a matter of seconds — read any one of those 24,870 posts that our membership has emailed to the group. If there is a convenient way to do that on Facebook, I haven’t found it,” John said.
Another advantage to such email groups, John mentioned, is serving as a resource for information and research.
“I don’t know how many times over the years that I’ve had a question that I couldn’t find an answer to in my library or with an internet search. I posed the question here and got good answers. We’ve shared ideas and — especially in the early days — found the group a good place to share sermon outlines,” John said.
So he concluded his post with an appeal to group members to “think creatively” on how to re-energize the list.