How do I know if you’ve read this?

If you’re reading this newsletter on my website, I don’t have a way to know if you’ve read it. Using Google Analytics, I can see statistics about how many people view this page and how much time they spend on it, from which I can infer how many people might have read it. But I certainly don’t know whether you in particular have read it.

On the other hand, if you’re reading the email version of this newsletter, then I can view a report that tells me whether you in particular received the email, and even how many times you opened it. This kind of tracking gives me the ability to re-send the email to anyone who hasn’t opened it the first time around.

Many of us who send email newsletters rely on such statistics to determine which of our newsletters are popular with readers, and whether our contact list consists of people who care about what we have to say.

However, we can no longer rely on those statistics, especially for people who read their emails using Apple Mail.

In the latest version of Mail, Apple has introduced the ability for a reader to enable privacy features that thwart the tracking devices of incoming emails. If you use Apple Mail and enable its privacy feature, then I have no way of knowing whether you in particular have opened my email newsletter.

As a result, the statistics in my email report will be skewed, and will look like fewer and fewer people are opening my email newsletters, even though that might not be the reality.

Personally, I think the move by Apple is a good idea. It helps empower people to decide whether they want to be tracked when they read emails. If other companies follow Apple’s lead — as often happens in the tech world — then other email programs will start offering this privacy feature as well. As people acquire more control over their own data, we will have less access to statistics about people’s behavior.

While statistics are a good source of general information, they should not be relied on when making decisions about what content is important to convey.

It’s always good to offer content that people will find useful, but I believe too many content providers spend too much time trying to tweak their content in order to match what the statistics tell them.

If you publish content that has meaning for you, those who resonate with your message will find you.

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