Rise Of The Newsletter
If less email is more, the newsletter can fit right in to deliver more information with less bulk email.
The conventional wisdom when it comes to email these days is that people will do anything to receive less email into their inbox. So many companies, schemes, accounts, and actual people ask us for our email addresses to send us automated junk that our inboxes seem filled to the brim with messages, many of which we never even read.
Because of this email glut, it’s curious that an increasingly popular means of content spreading seems to be the newsletter. It started a couple years ago when, amidst the cries the “email is dead,” certain internet influencers and tastemakers began sending weekly or daily emails rounding up their reads. These began to garner attention and traction on social media, and all of a sudden the email newsletter has become the preferred way to connect with a dedicated and engaged audience.
This logic applies to publishers as much as it does to individuals. Where publications were once desperate to get their readers to like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter, today the email subscribe box is far more coveted, as it means the reader likes their content enough to get it sent directly to their email inbox. The email subscriber is seen as a more committed pair of eyeballs compared to a social media interaction, and it’s one that publishers can hawk to advertisers even more. Publications like Quartz and Politico have become known for their daily newsletter briefings, which provide pithy summaries of content, and links directing to the full articles on their site. It’s a way to drive traffic, sure, but it also provides value to the reader even if they don’t click on a single link.
If you’re thinking of starting your own email newsletter using a free service like TinyLetter, it can be helpful to understand just what it is about the newsletter medium that works. Here’s a rundown of factors to keep in mind:
The homepage is dead:
Okay, not literally. But fewer and fewer people go inbound to a publication or website’s homepage these days to find what they’re looking for. We’re far more likely to find the content we’re looking for via other people’s curated feeds. So think of the newsletter as a hyper-curated version of the phenomenon.
Social media fatigue:
Social media has become so saturated that sometimes our timelines and newsfeeds can be filled with rubbish we don’t actually want to read. On the other hand, subscribing to the newsletter of someone whose taste or outlook you really trust is a way to be served content that you’re pretty certain to want access to. While the people we follow on social media can be of questionable and varying levels of taste, those whose email newsletter we subscribe to tend to be those whose taste we admire.
Curating is time-consuming:
So why can’t we just use our own taste to find content we love? Because curating is time consuming. The internet is filled with content—some of it great, some not so great—and it takes time to wade through the masses. People who don’t work in media or don’t spend a lot of time online for their job may not come across the less obvious and less amplified kinds of content that media insiders do. Thus, think of a good newsletter as a way to access content you wouldn’t find on your own because you simply don’t have time.
Don’t abuse the trust:
Good newsletter writers know that their subscribers have put a certain amount of trust in them and in exchange they’ve been granted the intimacy of entering one’s inbox every so often. Thus, they know that to abuse that trust—that is, by sending out the newsletter erratically, hawking products or services that feel inauthentic, or delivering substandard content—isn’t an option. Consistency and quality are key when it comes to a newsletter, and the most successful ones stick to a regular schedule and tone.