A Popular Breed:The AOL E-Mail User

At the end of 2002, AOL counted 35.2 million subscribers, and according to figures from Jupiter Research (a unit of this site’s corporate parent), 93 percent are likely to be using email.

These statistics translate into an enormous volume of messages that fill member inboxes, and a goldmine to the email marketer that can effectively target this online population. A study conducted by Lucid Marketing attempts to gain an understanding of the AOL email user – which accounts for 35 percent of the U.S. online population, according to Jupiter measurements.

Lucid Marketing found, from a total of 2,926 responses, that the typical AOL email user is female (58 percent), married (60 percent) and over the age of 45 (54 percent). The majority (47 percent) of respondents indicated that they checked their AOL email once or twice a day, but more than one-third (34 percent) were logging on to check mail three or four times daily. A small portion (5 percent) of all the respondents acted more compulsively, stating that they checked their mail constantly.

Almost all (90 percent) of the respondents’ email activity was contained to the home, and nearly two-thirds (65 percent) indicated their AOL email account was for personal use only. AOL users have not fully embraced broadband yet, as 77 percent indicated that they are always or sometimes dialing up.

Overall, AOL email users are wary of opening messages from senders they don’t know, with nearly 46 percent stating that they always delete email from unknown sources. Slightly more than 51 percent sometimes open the messages, while 1.3 percent always open the messages, and 1.7 percent reported unknown email as spam.

Marketers that send plain text messages have a slight advantage over those that send HTML email, with this statistic presenting a challenge in designing attention-getting messages. The 53 percent that prefer plain text might be holdovers from the days when AOL users were not able to view HTML email, and this segment will probably change preferences as they become more adapted to the newer versions of AOL.

The spam problem is not unique to AOL users, as BrightMail counted 6,458,065 unique spam attacks for February 2003 – a predictable increase of nearly 6 percent over January 2003’s figures.


February 2003 Spam Category Data
Products 34%
Financial 26%
Adult 19%
Other 5%
Scams 5%
Health 3%
Leisure 3%
Internet 3%
Spiritual 2%
Source: Brightmail’s Probe Network

Brightmail defines the categories as follows:

  • Product-oriented messages advertise general goods or services.
  • Financial marketing messages are those that make reference to money, the stock market, credit reports, loans, and investments.
  • Adult-oriented spam refers to offerings for offensive or inappropriate material, intended for persons over the age of 18.
  • Scam messages contain fraudulent or intentionally misguiding content.
  • The health category offers health-related products or services, such as herbal remedies or medical treatments.
  • Leisure-related messages are those advertising prizes, awards, discounted travel, online games and casinos.
  • Internet- or computer-oriented emails are those that advertise related products or services, such as Web hosting, or design.
  • Spiritually oriented messages include offerings for psychics, organized religion, and astrology.
  • Miscellaneous messages do not pertain to any of the specified categories.

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