With a rising tide of online disinformation, trivia and trolling, the dedicated email newsletter is being seen in a new light. The key to formulating the right newsletter strategy is to focus on quality and relevance (and not forgetting, metrics).
Writing in June this year, freelancer Erica Buist identified 2018 as the year of the personal newsletter. Unfortunately, she named 2019 as the year of “inboxes crammed with newsletters we just don’t have time to read and can’t bring ourselves to unsubscribe to.”
Calling for an end to the fad for personal newsletters, she wrote on Medium: “No one needs more shit to read”.
No Erica they don’t, and I have huge sympathy for your views on the narcissistic confessionals, advisories and streams of consciousness missives fired out by un-or-under employed journalists. No one needs more shit to read.
But well-crafted email newsletters – well considered, serving a purpose, adding value, informing, educating and entertaining – those are an entirely different thing. And strategies for developing those types of newsletters are what publishers need to be focusing on.
It wasn’t that long ago that email looked like it had had its day.
Why are there so many newsletters?
The personal newsletter trend is a patchy subset of a much bigger phenomenon – a phenomenon that someone less cynical than me might call the pivot to newsletters.
It wasn’t that long ago that email looked like it had had its day. Predictions of its impending doom accompanied every story trumpeting the inexorable rise of social media. Spam, ridiculously busy inboxes and the relentless flow of marginally relevant office communications meant email was tolerated but unloved.
But as social media developed into a torrent of irrelevant fluff at best and toxic trolling at worst, a digital communications channel invented in the 1970s has moved up the digital-media popularity list. And just as the smartphone catapulted social media into everyday life, it has done the same for email – according to a 2018 IBM customer-engagement survey, 49% of emails are read on mobile.
For publishers sick of ceding control of their audiences to fickle social media platforms, jaded by frequently unfulfilled promises that social reach can be monetised, the resurgence of email has offered a welcome return of control. It has also developed into a strategic tool for rebuilding fractured reader relationships.