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Among the five most-used email providers, Inbox.com and Gmail grew at substantially higher rates than their competitors in the past year, according to data from CompetePRO.

Inbox.com Grows 65%

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Although in terms of monthly unique visitors Inbox.com ranked a distant fifth in October 2010 with about 7.9 million, that figure represents an impressive 65% increase from 4.8 million in October 2009. The only other email provider in the top five (by unique visitor) to even approach that rate was Gmail (mail.google.com), which increased about 46%, from 27.6 million to 40.3 million.

While Yahoo (mail.yahoo.com) led all sites with about 74 million unique visitors in October 2010, this marked a slight 2% decline from about 75 million unique visitors in October 2009. Hotmail (mail.live.com) came in second with 49.2 million unique visitors, an even slighter 1% decline from 49.6 million a year earlier.

The Google document sharing service (docs.google.com) posted solid 18% annual growth, rising from 11.5 million to 13.6 million unique visitors during the 12-month period.

Email Use Declines Long-Term, Rises Short-Term

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Some industry observers have speculated that the increasing popularity of email alternatives such as texting and social networking will put a damper on email usage. CompetePRO data offers mixed analytics on email performance, which generally declined between October 2009 and October 2010 but generally increased between September 2010 and October 2010.

For example, unique visitors to the top 60 email sites dropped about 3.3% between October 2009 and October 2010, from 136.4 million to 131.8 million. However, on a month-over-month basis, unique email visitors rose 4.25% from about 126.5 million.

Similarly, total year-over-year visits fell 16%, from 2.86 million to 2.39 million, but rose 11.7% month-over-month from 2.14 million. Year-over-year page views fell 20% year-over-year, from 17.85 million to 14.26 million, but grew 32.2% month-over-month from 10.79 million.

And total time spent in minutes fell almost 21% year-over-year, from 21 billion to 16.7 billion, but rose about 20% month-over-month from almost 14 billion. Attention (total percentage of online time spent on the top 60 email sites) shrank about 20% year-over-year, from about 4.5% to 3.6%, but climbed 13% month-over-month from 3.2%.

Email Most Used Marketing Channel

Email is still the most-used marketing channel, according to a recent study from Lyris. Ninety-seven percent of study respondents (including online and email marketers) use email. Respondents spend most of their time on email marketing (45%), even if they are online marketers (29%). As would be expected, email marketers spend significantly more time on email marketing (68%) compared to agencies (38%) and online marketers.

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