Email can be delivered in a very direct manner – a single email can be delivered to the exact recipient intended, assuming an email address is known and permission is granted – but that does not mean that the message has truly connected. I'm not talking about email deliverability, although that remains an important topic, I'm talking about the ability of a message to be noticed or discovered by its recipient in an overflowing inbox.
We each receive more email on a daily basis than we are able or willing to read. As we look through our inbox, this means that we make very quick decisions on which emails to read and which emails to ignore. This is based on the person or source from whom the email is received, and the subject line of the email. Receiving uninteresting or non-valuable content from a particular source quickly leads to a situation in which we recognize, and reflexively delete or ignore the content. This is known as an “emotional unsubscribe” as we have tuned out of the communication, and although we have not clicked the “unsubscribe” link, we are effectively at that state.
Once an email has been received and opened, most audience are quickly scanning for interesting content. If it is discovered, it might be read, but if it is not quickly seen, the email will be just as quickly deleted. This is why, as marketers, we need to think of email as a "discoverable" marketing medium in the same way that we might think of any topic shared in social media in terms of how likely it is to be "discovered".
Each subject line and each article title within the email is a teaser that should be designed to capture the audience’s attention and compel them to want to read more. Without being misleading or deceitful, the best headlines intrigue readers and leave them wanting more information. Rather than assuming an email will be read, we as marketers can only assume that, at best, it might be browsed quickly.
The onus is upon us to make the content within the email, and the headlines that introduce that content, compelling enough that the reader takes the time to read them and discovers the message within. If they do, we have succeeded in having our information discovered. If they do not, however, we have likely pushed that person one step further away from being open to discovering our next communication.