Who Needs Voicemail Anymore? with Michael Schrage

Tech expert Michael Schrage calls voicemail "an anachronism" whose time has come and gone. Could e-mail be next?

Michael Schrage: I’ve been very interested in voicemail because, like many people, you know, when it first came out I immediately hung up the phone. I didn’t want to leave a message. And then, of course, I became upset when people didn’t have voicemail so I couldn’t leave a message. And then much to my shock and horror, I became upset when the person I had called answered the phone because I didn’t want to speak to them. I just wanted to leave a message. And I thought that voicemail was a very interesting genre of communications. But as we went forward and as corporate voicemail took hold and then as texting and other forms of communication, e-mail, et cetera, and mobile devices materialized. It became clear that voicemail was, deservedly so, an anachronism. It was more and more work, less and less efficient for the value derived. And so I think going forward one of the most interesting things that we’re going to see is how people have different technology communication styles. Increasingly I believe you’re only going to have conversations, voice conversations with people who you know and you’re going to use texting and e-mail to set up a conversation before you have a voicemail, or, excuse me, real-time conversation with them. I think voicemail is an anachronism.

I don’t think people want to listen to 15 or 20 messages. I think they’re happy to scan 15 or 20 texts. So I think we’re in a stage where basically you’re going to tell a lot about somebody’s personality whether they want to communicate with you via e-mail, via text, or they want to talk with you on the phone. And the last quasi-useful thing I can say on this is this is really a demographic phenomenon. I don’t think there’s anybody I know under the age of 30 who listens to their voicemail. And I think most people over the age of 50 are just too tired to go through their cues of voicemail. Voicemail is a great idea whose time has come and it’s gone. So Coke pulling the plug on their voicemail system, I don’t think people will care. In fact the irony is for the majority of people they already have a voicemail system. It’s through their mobile phone provider. Corporations are going to get out of that kind of a business. And I’ll go one step further. I think the era of corporate e-mail is going to vanish too because I think people are using LinkedIn and Facebook, Yammer and other “enterprise social media platforms” to manage interaction. Yes, I think everybody will always have an e-mail address, but in terms of time invested and time spent I think within the decade e-mail is going to sound and smell suspiciously like voicemail as a platform for where work gets done.

Directed/Produced by Jonathan Fowler, Elizabeth Rodd, and Dillon Fitton

 

Tech expert Michael Schrage calls voicemail "an anachronism" whose time has come and gone. Could e-mail be next? The author of The Innovator's Hypothesis explores different modes and styles of communication looking toward the future.

Related Articles

Scientists discover what caused the worst mass extinction ever

How a cataclysm worse than what killed the dinosaurs destroyed 90 percent of all life on Earth.

Credit: Ron Miller
Surprising Science

While the demise of the dinosaurs gets more attention as far as mass extinctions go, an even more disastrous event called "the Great Dying” or the “End-Permian Extinction” happened on Earth prior to that. Now scientists discovered how this cataclysm, which took place about 250 million years ago, managed to kill off more than 90 percent of all life on the planet.

Keep reading Show less

Why we're so self-critical of ourselves after meeting someone new

A new study discovers the “liking gap” — the difference between how we view others we’re meeting for the first time, and the way we think they’re seeing us.

New acquaintances probably like you more than you think. (Photo by Simone Joyner/Getty Images)
Surprising Science

We tend to be defensive socially. When we meet new people, we’re often concerned with how we’re coming off. Our anxiety causes us to be so concerned with the impression we’re creating that we fail to notice that the same is true of the other person as well. A new study led by Erica J. Boothby, published on September 5 in Psychological Science, reveals how people tend to like us more in first encounters than we’d ever suspect.

Keep reading Show less

NASA launches ICESat-2 into orbit to track ice changes in Antarctica and Greenland

Using advanced laser technology, scientists at NASA will track global changes in ice with greater accuracy.

Firing three pairs of laser beams 10,000 times per second, the ICESat-2 satellite will measure how long it takes for faint reflections to bounce back from ground and sea ice, allowing scientists to measure the thickness, elevation and extent of global ice
popular

Leaving from Vandenberg Air Force base in California this coming Saturday, at 8:46 a.m. ET, the Ice, Cloud, and Land Elevation Satellite-2 — or, the "ICESat-2" — is perched atop a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket, and when it assumes its orbit, it will study ice layers at Earth's poles, using its only payload, the Advance Topographic Laser Altimeter System (ATLAS).

Keep reading Show less