The mailing list seemed like a huge one, listing some 2,500 subscribers in its ranks. Its activity appeared remarkable, issuing forth over six million messages to those subscribers in a month’s time. But was it really that busy, or were the numbers elusive?
Of those 2,500 subscribers, 775 had their subscriptions set to NOMAIL, which meant that they weren’t receiving individual messages. Some of those used that setting, because they had multiple e-mail addresses and wanted the ability to post from any e-mail address, while receiving mail from but one. Others only wanted to be able to access list messages from the list’s archives on the web, sparing their inboxes from extra mail. Some may have been on vacation, and some may have just wanted to be in the club.
That left 1725 subscribers who received mail from the list. Four hundred of those received the digest version of the list, which would mean that those subscribers would not receive each and every individual message. Instead, a daily compilation of the list’s activity would hit their inboxes. That left only 1325 list subscribers who received list mail as individual messages – just a hair over the total list’s subscriber base.
Working the numbers, the results revealed that the number of messages per subscriber were nearly double the amount shown at first blush. It was clear that a simple read of the number of subscribers and the number of messages did not show the whole picture. Even a count of the subscribers who were receiving individual messages doesn’t reveal whether those subscribers are actually opening the messages, reading them and savoring every word. Many list subscribers simply direct incoming listserve mail to a special e-mail address or mailbox, looking at it only sporadically or long enough to delete, giving it as much attention as another missive from Publishers Clearinghouse. The number of subscribers who actually pay attention to their listserve mail may be much, much lower than the subscription numbers and list activity reveal.