I've been sending around (and I apologize if anyone considers it flogging) my recent article on PBS MediaShift (where I've also been consulting in audience and revenue development) titled "Email Is Far From Dead."
The point, in a nutshell, is that email, in the words of one source, is still the single most effective marketing tool in digital media, even if social networks like Twitter and Facebook have started to take some of the share and the glory. The point is that as a business communication tool email still rules, and if you're a publisher or a marketer you can't afford to ignore it, if you want to reach and build your audience and/or customer base; it's by definition a loyal audience or customer base that has opted in to receive your messages.
One thing I didn't include in the piece was examples from my personal life to show that email isn't going to die among the young, either. Yes, my teenage daughter is on Facebook and AIM and instant messaging, and she may use other chat and social tools as well. But she also has an email, and in fact uses her email at times as her chat interface, for example on Google's Gchat service either for text, voice or video. On her Blackberry (yes, she has one), she uses email, and she also uses computers and an iPod Touch but will access email on all of them. Our younger nine-year-old also uses email, and through her Gmail does chats. I have seen that my children's friends are using email, too.
Another point is that the social networks are a stream, and tend to push anything older down. Whenever someone logs into Facebook or their Twitter client they see what's current, and may not bother scrolling very far down. In email, on the other hand, people tend to scroll all the way back to the last message they've seen. Even if something you sent is days old, there's a good chance it will get at least glanced at. (I see the results here in clickthroughs from emails for days, sometimes weeks, after we send one out from various sites I help.)
True, there are dangers in extrapolating from personal experience to larger trends, and email is not at the crux of at least my older daughter's personal communications. Email is not her main way of communicating, but it's still an important tool and as she gets old enough to start being a more educated consumer, email will probably still be a way to reach her with one-to-one communications, one of the important channels.