Nielsen released some startling figures yesterday for anyone involved in the business of media.

In February, social network usage exceeded Web-based e-mail usage for the first time.

As you fight to sell that e-mail sponsorship, some of the numbers—like these—might be against you. While every content publisher’s newsletter is different, if the one you sell is tracking along with what is going on throughout the web, your clickthroughs are down.

If this becomes an issue, I recommend you bring this just released study from Epsilon on your next call. The study is based on the performance of 7.7 billion promotional e-mails in Q4 2008. While we don’t sell ads in the direct marketing campaigns these e-newsletters represent, we share the same Internet and readers. It is the behavior of both of these that should concern us. Here are some survey results:

Bad news: Promotional direct mail volume is way up of year prior, 19 percent. Our newsletters are competing with a lot more volume in the inbox.

Good news: open rates are up. "Open rates increased for the third quarter in a row."

Bad news: Clickthrough rates dropped to the lowest level Epsilon has recorded.

Check your open and clickthrough rates. If your open rates are up, you need to use these numbers to counter the drop in clickthroughs clients could see as a sign of bad performance. This study can add a third part validation for the view that a drop in clickthroughs does not have to indicate a less effective campaign.

Click here to download the study …