Oct 15, 2013

Where Have All the Government Clicks Gone?

I was jogging the other day, and being the brilliant distance runner that I am, I dropped my phablet face down on the concrete. My carefully selected playlist full of unmitigated electronic garbage shattered in a torrent of Gorilla glass.

Now, knowing that my contract with Verizon clearly stated I wouldn’t be getting a new phone until I was dead and buried, I had no option but to get the screen repaired. So I hopped in the car, dropped my phone off at a local smart phone repair shop, and set up at the Panera across the street while I waited to get my pituitary-case of a phone back.

While at Panera, I noticed that some old colleagues of mine who work at the CDC here in Atlanta were camped out at a table. This was late morning now—they should have been at work. But there was no work, because the government was shut down. They didn’t have their computers out. They weren’t remotely working—they weren’t checking email. That made me wonder what the overall effect was of the shutdown on email.

On one hand, apparently furloughed Federal workers who check their government email are breaking the law. On the other hand, what’s a government employee with a government smart phone to do when emails appear in the inbox at the end of their fingertips? Perhaps with more free time on their hands, they’d engage more? And naturally, there shouldn’t be any change to "essential" government employees who were still on the job.

Well, we pulled click data in the weeks before and after the government shutdown (we send about 6 billion emails a month now, so we have all kinds of this data lying around). We focused on clicks from email addresses at the various government agencies affected by the shutdown, such as doi.gov, hud.gov, usmc.mil, etc. And it’s clear that the departments hit hardest by the furloughs have had a huge drop in engagement with email newsletters.

The SEC hasn’t been hit by furloughs, so as the fall marketing season ramps up so has engagement. As for HUD or the National Parks, well, their engagement fell off a cliff.

So if you’re a nonprofit or a business near a military base or a blog about communicable diseases, know that if your readership overlaps with a government audience these readers haven’t overnight decided to disengage with you—they just can’t check their email.