literally: “file corpse” / meaning: inactive member
I still get mail once a year from the dental clinic I last visited about 10 years ago. For this doctor’s office, I am a typical Karteileiche today. So, my name still appears in some file. But it would make just as much sense to write to Donald Duck or Mr. Pringle.
The term has a special relevance in e-mail marketing. For example, if you have been receiving the newsletter of a gutter cleaning company for years, it may be because they raffled off an iPad a decade ago and you entered your address. These types of campaigns quickly drive up the number of subscribers. But they naturally produce a large number of Karteileichen that will never show any involvement and stay as junk in their databases forever.
Also, the word is often used when any kind of organization—such as political parties or social networks—boast with their membership figures. In many cases, only a fraction of members is actually active on a regular basis. Or did you think that all 1.7 billion Facebook users still give a daily Like to their colleagues’ food pics?